When you can annul a marriage
Annulment (sometimes known as ‘nullity’) is a different way of ending a marriage.
You or your spouse must have either:
- lived in England or Wales for at least a year
- had a permanent home in England or Wales for at least 6 months
Unlike divorce, you can apply for annulment in the first year of your marriage or any time after. However, if you apply years after the wedding, you might be asked to explain the delay.
You’ll need to show that the marriage:
- was never legally valid (‘void’)
- was legally valid, but meets one of the reasons that makes it ‘voidable’
Because of coronavirus (COVID-19), annulment applications are taking longer than usual to process.
Your marriage is not legally valid - ‘void’ marriages
You can annul a marriage if it was not legally valid in the first place, for example:
- you’re closely related to the person you married
- one or both of you were under 16
- one of you was already married or in a civil partnership
If a marriage was never legally valid, the law says that it never existed.
However, you may need legal paperwork (a ‘decree of nullity’) to prove this - for example if you want to get married again.
Your marriage is ‘voidable’
You can annul a marriage for a number of reasons, such as:
- it was not consummated - you have not had sexual intercourse with the person you married since the wedding (does not apply for same sex couples)
- you did not properly consent to the marriage - for example you were forced into it
- the other person had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) when you got married
- your spouse was pregnant by someone else when you got married
- one spouse is in the process of transitioning to a different gender
As with divorce, your marriage legally exists until you annul it using one of these reasons.
The rules on ending a civil partnership are slightly different, but the court forms are the same.