What constitutes a marriage annulment?

If you want to know more about what a marriage annulment is, or perhaps you’re personally looking to annul a marriage, this blog post aims to give you an overview of precisely what it is, how it differs to divorce and how you might go about annulling a marriage. For further support or assistance, please feel free to schedule an appointment with one of our solicitors.

What is a marriage annulment?

The simplest way of understanding a marriage annulment is that it can only be sought if the marriage itself was not legally valid in the first place, or there is a reason that will void the marriage. Couples who seek a marriage annulment want to declare the marriage null – as if it never happened in the first place. You can apply for a marriage annulment at any stage during your marriage, there is no time limit or length of time you need to stay married for first. Marriage annulments can be difficult to prove to a court, especially when more time has lapsed since being married, so in some cases it may be more suitable to apply for a divorce instead. If a successful annulment is made, the marriage is declared as void and the couple are no longer legally married.

What are the reasons that can constitute a marriage annulment?

As previously mentioned, a marriage can be annulled based on two factors – either the marriage was not legal in the first place, or it is ‘voidable’. You would need to consider your reasons based on your personal circumstances.

Illegal marriages include:

  • Being closely related to the person you married.
  • Either you or your partner or both were under 16 when you got married.
  • Either you or your partner was already married or in a civil partnership when the marriage took place.

Voidable marriages include:

  • You didn’t properly consent to the marriage – this means if you were forced into getting married.
  • The marriage wasn’t consummated – you haven’t had sexual intercourse since the wedding. If you’re part of a same sex couple, this does not apply.
  • Your partner had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married that you were not aware of.
  • You or your partner is in the process of transitioning to a different gender.

If you need to apply for an annulment, you can do so through the gov.uk website.

If you think a divorce is more suited to your personal situation, you can find out more about the process using our step-by-step divorce guide.

Annulment vs divorce

Where an annulment seeks to void the marriage, a divorce is a different process whereby both partners accept that there was a legitimate marriage, but one or both parties no longer want to be legally married to the other. There are a variety of reasons one might choose to file for divorce including:

  • Adultery
  • Unreasonable behaviour
  • Two years’ separation
  • Desertion

Of the above, seeking divorce through unreasonable behaviour covers a whole host of different behaviours, such as obsessive hobbies, verbal abuse, debt and many more. For more information on unreasonable behaviour, we have a dedicated blog post on the topic.

How much does a marriage annulment cost?

It’s important to consider which route to take based on your personal circumstances. A marriage annulment is less expensive than a divorce (especially if that divorce is contested) – you’ll just need to fill in a nullity petition form which costs around £550. However, it can be harder to get an annulment due to the specific set of circumstances.

In 2019 before the global pandemic took hold, there were 107,599 total divorces in the UK across all decrees. Of this number, only 297 were awarded via a decree of nullity, which equates to just 0.27% of all divorce decrees in 2019. We’ve included this figure in order to help demonstrate the difference between how separations are conducted in the UK. However, we do recommend that you seek a marriage annulment if your personal circumstances fall under the reasons listed above.

If you require any further assistance or want to talk through your options with one of our knowledgeable solicitors, you can call us on 0330 60 60 161, or schedule an appointment at one of our London offices using our contact form. We’re here to help and ensure that you’re doing what’s best for you.