Marriage Annulment

Marriage annulment is another way to end a marriage. Like divorce the result of a marriage annulment is to end a marriage which ensures you and your partner are free again. Marriage annulments are not as common as a divorce. Providing your marriage is not legally valid you can consider an annulment of marriage in UK. Our family law specialists provide you with all the information you need on marriage annulment.

Article Contents

What is an annulment?

According to the government website, annulment is a different way of ending a marriage. Annulment is also referred to as nullity. For an annulment of marriage in UK to take place the courts must decide that a marriage is invalid. A decree is issued confirming the marriage is null and void. The outcome of a marriage annulment is the same as a divorce which means your relationship has legally ended. The main difference between a marriage annulment and a divorce is that with an annulment the courts treat this as a marriage never existed. The courts provide a declaration that the marriage never happened in the first place.

How long after a wedding can you get an annulment?

To obtain a divorce, you must have been married for at least a year. In contrast the marriage annulment time frame is less stringent. A marriage can be annulled at any time. This means you can make an application for annulment of marriage in UK at any time rather than waiting for at least a year. However, making an application for annulment many years after your marriage could cause some issues as you will be required to explain the reasons for your delay and why the marriage was not challenged at an earlier stage.

What is the process for an annulment?

For a marriage annulment to take place you must complete a nullity petition. The form is called a D8N and is an application to annul your marriage or civil partnership. When completing this form, you must ensure you provide your name and full details, together with the details of the Respondent, who is a party to the marriage. You must also confirm when your marriage took place and the place the marriage took place. A copy of your marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate must also be sent to the court. When completing the form, you must also confirm the facts which you are relying upon in support of your application for a marriage annulment. These are:

  • Either the marriage is void; or
  • The marriage is voidable

When completing the nullity application, you must also complete a statement of case. You must provide details about the fact on which you wish to rely upon to annul your marriage.

Your completed nullity petition form must then be sent to the family divorce court which is closest to you. The form must be sent with 2 copies. The nullity petition form will also attract a court fee of £550.00.

When is a marriage considered void?

Section 11 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides the legal grounds in which a marriage may be considered as void and therefore allow you to obtain a marriage annulment. A marriage is legally void if:

  • You and your spouse are related closely.
  • Either you or your spouse was under the age of 16 when the marriage took place.
  • Either you or your spouse was already married at the time of your marriage.

If any of the above conditions apply, then the courts will consider that your marriage had never taken place. You should try and keep any evidence you have of the above, with regards to whether either part was married at the time, the age, or the close relationship. This evidence will be extremely useful especially if you want to consider getting married again in the future following your annulment.

A void marriage is treated as though it never legally took place. You do not need to seek an annulment from the court if your marriage is void. However, our family lawyers recommend seeking an annulment to ensure there are no complications should you wish to remarry in the future.

When is a marriage considered voidable?

Section 12 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 provides the legal grounds in which a marriage may be considered as voidable. A marriage may be considered as voidable or defective and renders it possible to obtain an annulment of marriage in UK where:

  • The marriage has never been consummated. This means that you and your partner have not engaged in sex since the date of the marriage. It is important to note that this ground is currently only available to marriages of opposite-sex partners.
  • The marriage was not properly consented to. This could be where your consent was based on other factors such as you being under the influence of alcohol or drugs or you were coerced into consenting to the marriage. This also covers situations where one party, had at the time of the marriage, been suffering from some form of a mental disorder.
  • Your spouse was pregnant with a child from another person when you got married.
  • Your partner had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married and you were not aware of this.
  • One of the partners had undergone gender recognition before the marriage without telling the other partner; or
  • An interim gender recognition certificate was issued to one partner after the marriage had taken place.

Unlike a void marriage, a voidable marriage is seen as being valid until the date of when the annulment is finalised.

Applying for a decree nisi

Once your application is submitted to the court for an annulment of marriage in UK, the other party must respond within 8 days confirming whether they agree the marriage should be annulled. Following their agreement, as with a divorce, you can make an application for the decree nisi. This will confirm that court does not object to the marriage being annulled.   

In order to successfully apply for a decree nisi you must complete the Form D84 which is an application for a decree nisi/conditional order or (judicial) separation decree/order and submit this to the court dealing with your annulment.

A statement in support of annulment must also be completed and sent to the court. This statement confirms that the facts you stated in your petition for a marriage annulment are true. There are two different statements in support of an annulment. One is for when the marriage is void (D80F) and the other is where the marriage is voidable (D80G). When completing this statement, you must confirm that you have read the nullity petition. You must also confirm whether there is anything you want to add or change to any statement in the petition.

Applying for a decree absolute

A decree absolute is the final decree which is considered as the final document which confirms that your marriage has been legally annulled and allows you to obtain an annulment of marriage in UK. An application for a decree absolute can be made six weeks after you have obtained your decree nisi.

What are the benefits of a marriage annulment instead of a divorce?

Undertaking a marriage annulment can have its own benefits over undergoing a divorce. One of the main benefits of an annulment is that it can protect assets and property. If a marriage is annulled, it will be considered as never having taken place. Furthermore, the aim of the courts following an annulment is to ensure that the parties are placed in a position they were in prior to the wedding. This could be advantageous for a spouse who is stronger financially meaning their assets and finances will not be up for division following a marriage annulment.

A marriage annulment may also be beneficial to a spouse who was previously eligible to certain benefits such as spousal maintenance from their previous marriage. If a couple divorced the partner may not be entitled to receive these benefits they had previously enjoyed, but with an annulment these may be restored.

Can the courts stop you from applying for a marriage annulment?

In some situations, the court may deny a petition of annulment of marriage in UK. The main reason to preventing an annulment is where the courts are satisfied that the petitioner was aware of the facts and situations prior to marrying and regardless of these they accepted and consented to the marriage. This will usually take place where the other partner provides sufficient evidence which outlines you were aware of the situation and had full knowledge.

If the petitioner for an annulment knew they could obtain a marriage annulment and despite this led the Respondent to believe this will not be the case, the courts can disbar the petitioner from obtaining an annulment.

The courts can also stop a petitioner in applying for an annulment if proceedings are not commenced within 3 years of the registration of the marriage. However, there are exceptions to this which the court may take into consideration and may look to grant leave for an application to be made outside of this 3-year period.

What are my options if the courts do not grant a marriage annulment?

If the court disbars a petition for a marriage annulment or does not consider there to be sufficient grounds to render a marriage void or voidable then you would need to proceed under the normal course and procedure for a divorce. However, you will need to wait for a period of a year before you can commence your divorce proceedings.

What are the differences between an annulment and a divorce?

Divorce is the most common way to terminate a marriage. It is a way in which one partner proves to the court that their marriage has irretrievably broken down by satisfying one of the 5 reasons for divorce which are adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, separation of two years with consent or by way of a separation for a period of 5 years.

To obtain a divorce, you just have been married for at least a year whereas for annulment you could make an application at any time after the marriage. Annulment of a marriage UK differs from a divorce as the grounds for an annulment are restricted and may pose difficult to prove. Furthermore, to seek an annulment you must have also been living in England and Wales for at least a year and must have been a permanent residence for 6 months before you can make an application for an annulment. 

The main difference between a divorce and a marriage annulment is that with divorce the courts recognise the marriage is valid, whereas for an annulment the courts treat the marriage to have never taken place where it is declared void or consider the marriage as being legally recognised an in existence until the marriage is annulled.


Can partners in a civil partnership apply for an annulment?

To be recognised as being successfully entered into a civil partnership you must both be over 16 years of age and must not be in a civil partnership with someone else at the time of establishing your civil partnership. If your civil partnership does not satisfy these requirements and conditions, then you can apply to the family courts to have the partnership annulled.

It is important to note that the annulment of a civil partnership could affect the rights you have as a civil partner. These rights mainly concern the family home and spousal maintenance.

In a civil partnership the home you share is classified as a shared home. If, however you annul your civil partnership and your partner is the legal owner of the house, then they can decide to dispose the home by way of a sale or lease without having to obtain your consent. Furthermore, you will also lose your right to a share of your partners estate if they die if you annul your married. By annulling your civil partnership, you also lose the right of applying to the court for maintenance to support you as this benefit can only be enjoyed by civil partners.

What is a religious annulment?

Religious annulment is another form of the termination your marriage. You can obtain religious annulment through a church tribunal under the Catholic Church. Instead of the courts, the local bishop can grant a religious annulment. The purpose of a religious annulment is to allow any second marriages which will be recognised by the church. However, this religious annulment is not a legal annulment and is not recognised under the English Law.

Arrange a free consultation today

Our family specialists pride themselves in assist clients with all their enquiries in relation to family law. By focusing on family law only we ensure all our experience, skills and knowledge are used to provide you the best advise possible to achieve your desired outcome. Should you be considering seeking a legal annulment or have been served with a nullity petition then contact us today for a free initial consultation by calling on 0330 094 5880 to discuss your options or let us call you back.

Our family lawyers and family lawyers in Oxford, as well as nationally, will ensure you receive the advice and assistance you need and assist you in ensuring you obtain the outcome you desire and ensuring you understand your legal rights.