When Can You Get a Marriage Annulled?
Much like getting a divorce, the process of annulment is also a legal way of ending a marriage in the United Kingdom.
But, in divorces, you must wait at least one year after the wedding before you can start divorce proceedings.
In fact, you can apply to get a marriage annulled by a court any time after the wedding has taken place. Even so, a court might ask for an explanation of the delay if you are applying several years after the wedding.
Legitimate reasons for having a marriage annulled vary. But, there are several common grounds that may qualify for a marriage annulment. Typical factors include bigamy, religion, mental incapacity, and marriages taking place between close relatives.
Often, marriage annulment is an option for spouses with religious reasons for wanting to avoid a divorce. But, you would need to show that the marriage was not ‘valid’ or it was ‘defective’.
If a Marriage is Not Legally Valid (void marriages)
A marriage must be legal in the first place to avoid being annulled. So, reasons to annul a marriage for not being ‘legally’ valid can include situations where:
- Either, one or both of the spouses were under the legal age to marry (sixteen in the United Kingdom).
- The husband and wife are closely related to each other (e.g. parent and child, or siblings).
- One of the people who got married was already married to another person or living in a civil partnership.
According to British citizenship rules, a marriage never existed unless it was legally valid. But, getting the legal paperwork of annulment means you have proof. You would need it to marry again in the future.
If a Marriage is Defective (voidable marriages)
You can also annul a defective or ‘voidable’ marriage in the United Kingdom for several different reasons. Among the most common grounds would be:
- Not properly consenting to the marriage (e.g. it was a forced marriage or you were drunk).
- At the time you got married the other person had an STD (sexually transmitted disease).
- The female was already in a state of pregnancy by another man at the time you got married.
- The marriage was not consummated. This means you did not have sex with the person that you married since the wedding took place (does not apply for same sex couples).
Note: One of the spouses must have lived in England or Wales for at least one (1) year or had a permanent home in England or in Wales for at least six (6) months.
Applying for a Marriage Annulment
You can make an application to annul a marriage at any time after the wedding. There is a specific nullity petition for annulling a marriage.
Use Form D8N: Apply to annul your marriage or civil partnership and read the supporting notes for guidance. You should send two (2) copies to your nearest divorce court, and keep a copy for your own records.
The court-handling fee for filing a nullity petition is £593. Check to see it you can get help with court fees if you are on a low income or getting welfare benefits.
Note: The rules on ending a civil partnership differ in some legal areas. But, you can use the same court forms to dissolve the relationship.
Applying for a Decree Nisi
The other person has eight (8) days to respond to the nullity petition. They must state whether they agree to the annulment of the marriage – or not.
You can then apply for a ‘decree nisi’ using Form D84 if they give their consent. The form asks a court to confirm they see no reason not to allow the annulling of the marriage.
Statement in Support of an Annulment
You will also need to fill in a statement of annulment. It confirms that you stated the truth in your nullity petition. Use the most relevant form (depending on whether it is a ‘void’ or ‘voidable’ marriage):
Applying for a Decree Absolute
Once you get the decree nisi, you then need to wait six (6) weeks before you can apply for a decree absolute. It is also called a ‘decree of nullity’ in these types of legal cases. It is a final legal document that states the marriage has been completely annulled.
Use Form D36 to ask the court for a decree of nullity (make a decree nisi absolute). The annulment cost includes the fee for the decree absolute.
After Returning the Forms
The court will perform some checks to see if there are any reasons why they cannot annul a marriage. As a rule, there would be no reason for you to attend court during this process.
Once confirmed, the court will send a decree of nullity to you by post to confirm that you are no longer married.