The one where Ross and Rachel got married
8 December 2022
The term annulment is more commonly associated with Hollywood stars or of course famous fictional couples such a Ross and Rachel (if you know you know). Although times have changed and cases of annulments have decreased from 257 in 2020 to 231 in 2021, particularly with the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce earlier this year, some people would still prefer to annul their marriage, rather than divorce.
The reasons for seeking an annulment, rather than a divorce are varied. There are those alcohol influenced trips to the little wedding chapel in Las Vegas, but there are also more conventional issues. For example, in some cultures and faiths divorce is still frowned upon, meaning an annulment is more palatable. Sometimes a discovery of a significant fact about the other person may mean that a rapid legal solution is sought. The latter situation views marriage contractually, with a party seeking to show that either there was never a contract at all, or that the contract may be set aside. Another advantage of annulment over divorce is that a couple do not have to wait for a year after the date of the marriage to make an application. However, it is worth noting that if you choose to apply for an annulment a few years after the marriage then it is likely you will need to explain the reason behind the delay.
What are the conditions for obtaining an annulment?
Before you start the process of annulling your marriage you should be aware that the grounds for an annulment can be difficult to establish.
There are two grounds under which a marriage can be annulled:-
- If the marriage is ‘void’; OR
- If the marriage is ‘voidable’
Your marriage may be ‘void’ if
- You or your partner were under the age of 16 when you married;
- You and your partner are closely related; or
- One of you was married to someone else or in a civil partnership when you are married.
If your marriage falls into any of these categories, your marriage will never have been considered valid and you will not need to seek an annulment from the court. Instead, you will need to provide documentary evidence to prove the above.
Your marriage may be ‘voidable’ if
- Your marriage was not consummated (this does not apply to same sex couples);
- You did not give consent to the marriage, for example, you were under the influence of alcohol or you were forced into the marriage;
- Your partner was pregnant with another person’s child when you married;
- Your partner was in the process of transitioning into another gender; or
- Your partner had a sexually transmitted disease at the time of the marriage without your knowledge.
If any of the above relate to your marriage then you may be able to apply to the court for an annulment.
What is the process to annul a marriage?
To start the process you will need to complete a nullity petition. A member of the Family Team at Birketts LLP can help you with this. On completion of the petition, two copies should be sent to your nearest family divorce court with the annulment fee. The current fee is £553.
Once the petition has been sent to the court and the fee has been paid, on receipt of the documents your partner will have fourteen days to respond to let the court know whether or not they support the annulment. If your partner agrees, you can then apply for a conditional order which will confirm that the court is in support of the annulment. Six weeks after you receive the conditional order you can then apply for a final order, which confirms that your marriage has been annulled.
Once you return your forms, the court will then check if there are any reasons that the marriage cannot be annulled. You won’t need to visit the court for this. If the court is satisfied you will then receive the nullity of marriage order, which will confirm that you and your partner are no longer married.
Can the court refuse to grant an annulment?
Yes. If there is evidence to show that you were aware of one of the ‘voidable’ situations before you married your partner and accepted it, then the court may stop the process of moving the annulment along. If your annulment is not granted, you will then need to follow the divorce procedure. However, you will need to wait a year before you can apply for a divorce.
At Birketts we understand that these issues can be sensitive and the process may be stressful. Birketts’ Family Team has a range of experience helping with the annulment and divorce procedure. We can advise you on what steps to take throughout the process and we can offer additional support to put your finances in order at the same time.
For further information or to discuss a family law matter, please contact a member of Birketts’ Family Law Team.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at December 2022.