In certain circumstances, it may be possible to end a marriage in an alternative way rather than by way of a divorce. One of the ways in which this can be done is through obtaining and annulment of marriage. An annulment, which is also known as a decree of nullity, is a decree obtained from the Court confirming that a marriage is not valid. This can only be obtained on one of two grounds, either that the marriage is void, or that it is voidable.
A marriage is void when it has not existed. There are a number of situations, as found under section 11 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, when a marriage is void. Those are:
- The parties are “within a prohibited decree of relationship” i.e. the parties to the marriage were too closely related e.g. brother/sister, aunt/nephew;
- A party to the marriage was under the age of 16;
- The parties had intermarried in disregard to certain requirements as to the formation of a marriage;
- At the time of the marriage, either party was already lawfully married (or had a civil partner);
- In the case of a polygamous marriage entered into outside England and Wales, either party was at the time of the marriage domiciled (living) in England and Wales.
For a marriage to be void, it is essentially one which was invalid and has never existed.
Alternatively, the grounds upon which a marriage may be voidable are set out at Section 12 of the Matrimonial Causes Act. For a marriage to be voidable, it is one which did exist, however, it can be held to be invalid. The grounds for a voidable marriage are as follows:
- Non-consummation (by either party being incapable, or by the respondent’s wilful refusal);
- Lack of consent (including, but not limited to, the unsoundness of mind, duress or a mistake);
- Mental illness where one party to the marriage was unfit for marriage, even if they did have capacity to consent to it;
- That the respondent was suffering from communicable venereal disease, or was pregnant by a person other than the petitioner; or
- Where there are issues of gender recognition.
To ask the Court for an annulment, a document called a nullity petition would need to be filed at Court. Unlike divorce proceedings, it is not necessary to wait a year to file the nullity petition and one can be filed at Court straight away. There is a fee of £550 to file the nullity petition at Court and both party’s details would need to be included. To submit a nullity petition at Court, the original or certified copy of the marriage certificate would also be required.
Unlike in divorce proceedings which can be dealt with on paper, it may be that the Court require oral evidence in support of the nullity petition before the Judge approves the application, even if both parties agree that the marriage should be annulled.
The timeline for an annulment of marriage can be between 6 – 9 months.
If you require further information in relation or assistance in relation to the annulment of your marriage, please do not hesitate to contact one of our expert solicitors who would be happy to assist.
T: 029 2034 2233
Author: Fay Jones