Solicitor Rebecca Ledgerwood, in our leading Family Law team, explains the ground on which a marriage can be annulled.
Annulment (sometimes referred to as ‘nullity’) is a different method of ending a marriage. A marriage is capable of being annulled if it is void or voidable.
- A void marriage is one which is regarded as never having taken place. i.e. not valid in the first place.
- A voidable marriage is one which is valid until a decree pronouncing its annulment has been provided by the Court. i.e. a defective marriage
There are three grounds on which a marriage (entered into after 31.07.1971) is potentially void:
1. The marriage does not comply with the provisions of the marriage Acts 1949 to 1986 i.e.
- the parties are closely related
- either party is under the age of 16
- the parties have not complied with the formation requirements
2. At the time of the marriage either party was already married or a civil partner
3. If it is a polygamous marriage entered into outside of England and Wales, either party at the time of marriage was domiciled in England and Wales
There are eight grounds on which a marriage (entered in to after 31 July 1971) is potentially voidable:
At the point of marriage:
1. either party was suffering from a mental disorder;
2. one party had a sexually transmitted disease;
3. one party was pregnant by somebody else;
4. either party did not give valid consent i.e. being forced into the marriage. This could be through duress, mistake or unsound mind.
5. The marriage has not been consummated owing to the incapacity of one of the parties (this is not applicable to same sex couples)
6. The marriage has not been consummated owing to the refusal of one party (this is not applicable to same sex couples)
7. Since the marriage an interim gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 has been issued to either party
8. Either party has acquired a new gender since the time of marriage.
An annulment can take place any time after the marriage, unlike divorce proceedings which can only commence after 12 months. There is however a time bar to obtaining a decree of nullity insofar as proceedings must be issued within three years of the date of the marriage unless leave of the Court has been granted. The Court will only grant leave to issue outside of the time limit in very limited circumstances.
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This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.