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).
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.
1. Your marriage is not legally valid - ‘void’ marriages
You can annul a marriage if it was not legally valid in the first place, eg:
- you are closely related
- one of you was 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 - eg if you want to get married again.
2. Your marriage is defective - ‘voidable’ marriages
You can annul a marriage if:
- it wasn’t consummated - you haven’t had sex with the person you married since the wedding (doesn’t apply for same sex couples)
- you didn’t properly consent to the marriage - eg 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.