Under English law a marriage may be ended by either divorce or annulment. A declaration of annulment indicates that your marriage was invalid or had become invalid for some reason.
Following an annulment the law treats you as if your marriage never occurred. When you divorce however you are still considered to have been married.
Before applying for divorce you must wait for a specified period from the date of marriage. An annulment in contrast is possible at any time.
Why Get An Annulment?
For some there is still a stigma associated with divorce. If grounds for annulment exist those individuals may prefer an annulment rather than a divorce. For others there are religious considerations. For Roman Catholics, a declaration of annulment will not prevent them from getting married in church in the future. For divorced Catholics, remarriage in church is not possible.
What Are The Grounds For Annulment?
Grounds for annulment are different from the unreasonable behaviour and separation reasons for seeking a divorce. Instead you can seek an annulment because the marriage was not valid. For example:
- You and your husband or wife are close relatives
- One of you is under 16
- One of you is already married
You can also apply for an annulment if the marriage is defective in some way. For example:
- The marriage is not consummated
- One of you did not legally consent to marry because you were forced to marry or for some other reason
- One party to the marriage had a sexually transmitted disease and did not inform the other
- If a female party to the marriage is pregnant with someone else’s child at the date of marriage and did not tell the other despite being aware of the pregnancy
What Is The Procedure For Annulment?
The procedure for annulment is similar to divorce. The person seeking an annulment files a nullity petition followed by an application for a decree nisi. A statement in support of annulment backs up the application. If the decree nisi (or decree of nullity) is granted you can apply for the decree absolute six weeks later.
Can I Seek A Financial Settlement As Part Of The Annulment?
Annulments are often sought a very short time after the marriage before property and financial rights build up. However when Mick Jagger successfully annulled his lengthy marriage to Jerry Hall on the grounds that the Bali-held wedding ceremony was not valid in the UK, it was reported that there was a multi-million pound settlement. So if there is property to divide, and you are unable to agree matters you can make a financial claim.