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When is marriage annulment possible?

Annulment, also referred to as 'nullity', presents an alternative method of terminating a marriage. In the UK, annulment is a legal procedure that effectively renders a marriage void, treating it as if it never occurred, distinguishing it from divorce, which formally dissolves a valid marriage.


To pursue annulment, specific criteria must be met:


  1. The marriage was either never legally valid ('void') or was initially valid but meets conditions that render it 'voidable'.

Marriages deemed 'void' lack legal validity from the outset, meaning they were never legally recognised. In the UK, grounds for void marriages include situations where:


  • One or both parties were already married or in a civil partnership at the time of marriage.

  • The marriage involves close relatives, such as siblings or parents and children.

  • The marriage occurred without adhering to proper legal formalities, such as lacking consent or witnesses.


2. Alternatively, marriages deemed 'voidable' were initially valid but can be annulled if specific conditions are met. Grounds for annulment of voidable marriages in the UK include scenarios where:


  • Valid consent was lacking, such as due to duress, fraud, or incapacity (e.g., one party was intoxicated or coerced into marriage).

  • The marriage was not consummated (the couple has not engaged in sexual intercourse since the marriage).

  • One party had a sexually transmitted disease at the time of marriage, and the other party was unaware.

  • One party was pregnant by another person at the time of marriage, and the other party was unaware.

  • One party is in the process of transitioning to a different gender.


Unlike divorce, annulment can be sought within the first year of marriage or anytime thereafter. However, if seeking annulment years after the wedding, one might be required to provide an explanation for the delay.


The annulment process involves filing an application with the court, providing evidence to substantiate the grounds for annulment, and attending court hearings if necessary. The court then evaluates whether the marriage is void or voidable and grants the annulment accordingly.


It's essential to recognise that while annulment provides a means to dissolve marriages that were never legally valid or are deemed voidable, the process is not always straightforward. Each case is unique, and the legal requirements for annulment may vary based on factors such as jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the marriage.


Moreover, annulment can impact various aspects of the parties' lives beyond the marriage itself, including inheritance rights, pension entitlements, and immigration status. Therefore, it is essential for individuals contemplating annulment to grasp the potential ramifications fully and seek comprehensive legal advice to make well-informed decisions.



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