When you can annul a marriage
Annulment (sometimes known as ‘nullity’) is a different way of ending a marriage.
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’
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 18 (or under 16 if the marriage took place before 27 February 2023)
- 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’ or ‘nullity of marriage order’) 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.