Annulment Defined: Knowing Your Rights

by laura.bailey on September 5, 2013

What is annulment?

Annulment is a legal method of ending a marriage. It differs from divorce in a number of ways.

From a legal standpoint, annulment doesn’t just end a marriage: it completely erases it. Annulment can be a valid option for people who are against divorce for religious reasons.

Do I qualify for an annulment?

These are the reasons why an annulment may be granted. They are as follows:

The marriage wasn’t valid in the first place.

A marriage can be annulled if it wasn’t valid in the first place. A number of factors can declare a marriage ‘void’, these include, but are not limited to:

  • One of the partners being under 16

  • One of the partners already being married

  • The partners being closely related

  • The couple being the same sex

The marriage is defective

A defective marriage is grounds for annulment. a marriage can be declared ‘voidable’ if any of the following apply to its circumstances:

  • A partner was intoxicated and, as a result, couldn’t consent to the marriage

  • A partner had a sexually transmitted disease at the time of marriage

  • The woman was pregnant with another man’s child

  • The marriage wasn’t consummated

Will I need a solicitor?

The grounds which qualify a couple for annulment are not always clear cut. A solicitor who specialises in family law will be able to give you advice about whether you have a case for annulment or not.

A solicitor will be essential if:

  • Your partner doesn’t agree to the terms of the annulment

  • There are no arrangements in place for financial or custodial care of children

  • There are no financial agreements with regards to property

I think I have grounds for annulment, what should I do?

Unlike divorce, which can only be filed for after a year of marriage, an annulment may be granted at any time. However, it is worth noting that if a long period has passed before the application, you will be required to explain the delay.

Annulment is filed for by obtaining and filling in a nullify petition. A nullify petition can be obtained from any county court or the Principal Registration of the Family Division.

What Next?

When the nullify petition is completed and filed your partner has eight days to respond to it. If they agree to the terms of the annulment, you can then apply for a decree ‘nisi’. Otherwise known as form D84, this document can be found on the HM Courts and Tribunal Service website. When this document is filed you will then have to wait six weeks to apply for a decree absolute.

Finalising the process

When your decree absolute, sometimes called a ‘decree of nullity’, has been filed, the courts will decide if you have a valid case for annulment.

If the court agrees your marriage will be declared annulled.

This piece was written by Mark Enright, a writer for RM and Co, a law firm committed to providing client-focused legal services.

I am a guest blogger for a number of law resources.

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