Annul a marriage

When you can annul a marriage

Annulment is a way of ending a marriage, like divorce.

Unlike divorce, you can get a marriage annulled at any time after the wedding (in a divorce, you have to wait at least a year). However, if you apply years after the wedding, you might be asked to explain the delay.

You may want an annulment if you have religious reasons for not wanting a divorce. However, you need to show that the marriage was either not valid in the first place, or is defective for one of the reasons given below.

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

1. 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 are closely related
  • one or both of you were under 16
  • one of you was already married or in a civil partnership

If a marriage was not legally valid, the law says that it never existed.

However, you may need legal paperwork to prove this - for example if you want to get married again.

2. Your marriage is defective - ‘voidable’ marriages

You can annul a marriage for a number of reasons, such as:

  • it was not consummated - you have not had sex 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 drunk or forced into it
  • the other person had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married
  • the woman was pregnant by another man when you got married

Marriages annulled for these reasons are known as ‘voidable’ marriages.

The rules on ending a civil partnership are slightly different, but the court forms are the same.