Family law

What does it mean when a marriage is annulled?

Unlike divorce, which ends your marriage, annulment means that in the eyes of the law, if your marriage is annulled, it's as if you have never been married. However, getting your marriage annulled means having to prove that it was never legally valid in the first place.

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What is a marriage annulment?

While many people believe that divorce and annulment are virtually the same thing, there is one very important difference between them. Divorce is the legal process of bringing a marriage to an end, whereas annulment effectively declares that the marriage was never legally valid.

In other words, an annulment is a declaration by a court that the marriage in question has no validity in law, deeming it 'null and void', as if it never happened in the first place.

Why seek an annulment rather than a divorce?

There may be cultural or religious reasons why you wish to avoid getting a divorce; and obtain an annulment instead – provided the stringent conditions are met.

What are the grounds for annulment?

In order to get an annulment, your marriage must be deemed to be either 'void' or 'voidable'. The first category, void marriages, relates to marriages that were never legally valid when entered into. This might include situations when:

  • One or both parties were under the age of 16 at the time of the wedding
  • One person was already in a marriage or civil partnership with another person at the time of the wedding
  • The couple are closely related to one other

If any of these criteria apply to your marriage, it won't have been legal in the first place and it should be relatively straightforward to have your marriage annulled.

The second category is voidable marriages. Cases that fall into this category include situations when:

  • One person didn't properly consent to the marriage: for example, they were under the influence of alcohol during the marriage ceremony, or were intimidated going ahead with the marriage
  • The marriage wasn't consummated, either due to refusal or inability
  • A female partner was pregnant with someone else's child when the marriage took place, and the male spouse was unaware of this fact
  • One spouse had a communicable sexually transmitted disease when the wedding ceremony took place

Can I get a civil partnership annulled?

Yes, if you meet the criteria as outlined above, it is possible to get a civil partnership annulled instead of dissolved. This means that if your annulment is granted, the civil partnership will to all intents and purposes never have existed.

How do I start the annulment process?

If you wish to start the annulment process, the first step is to contact our specialist annulment solicitors. All you'll need to do is provide some details about your marriage and the circumstances surrounding it, and our solicitors will ask a few essential questions to establish whether or not you may qualify for an annulment.

If both parties agree to the annulment, this means it is 'uncontested, making the process relatively straightforward as long as you meet the necessary criteria.

However, if one party disagrees and chooses to contest the annulment, our solicitors will need to gather evidence and put a case together to prove that the marriage is invalid. In many cases, an annulment can be granted in as little as three to five months. However, if the annulment is contested or there are unusual circumstances surrounding the marriage, it can take longer.

In any case, rest assured that Slater and Gordon's family solicitors are here to handle your annulment with sensitivity and discretion.

If you believe that there are grounds for annulling your marriage of civil partnership, speak to one of our experienced family solicitors today. Call us now on 0800 780 2730 or contact us and we will call you.

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