What Constitutes A Void Or Voidable Marriage In The UK?

What Constitutes A Void Or Voidable Marriage In The UK?
What Constitutes A Void Or Voidable Marriage In The UK?

The grounds for obtaining an annulment in the UK are stringent, as evidenced by the low number of annulments in 2021, with only 231 reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

An annulment can only be granted if a marriage is deemed either “void” or “voidable.”.

Navigating this legal area can be complex, and annulment timelines are often strict. It is essential to understand what conditions render a marriage void or voidable and the necessary steps to substantiate these grounds.

Annulment is a specialised area of law where our expert family law solicitors can offer comprehensive guidance, including assessing whether your marriage meets the criteria for being void or voidable.

What’s the difference between a void and a voidable marriage?

The distinction between void and voidable marriages in the UK is relatively clear-cut.

A void marriage is one that was never legally valid from the outset. Essentially, a void marriage can be regarded as if it never occurred by both parties. While technically, an annulment may not be required for a void marriage, obtaining one is still advisable to ensure clarity, especially if either party intends to remarry.

On the other hand, a voidable marriage is legally valid but meets one of the criteria that renders it voidable.

What makes a marriage void?

A void marriage is one that was never legal, for example, because:

  • If you or your partner were already married or in a civil partnership,
  • you and your partner are closely related (for example, mother/son, aunt/nephew, father/daughter, brother/sister),
  • either of you was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage (or under the age of 16 if the marriage took place before February 27, 2023).

On what grounds is a marriage voidable?

A marriage is voidable in England and Wales if:

  • the marriage has not been consummated. This may be due to the incapacity of either party or the willful refusal of the other party to have sexual intercourse. This reason does not apply to same-sex couples.
  • either party did not properly consent to the marriage; for example, they were forced to marry or lacked the capacity to make the decision to marry.
  • at the time of the marriage, either party was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • at the time of the marriage, the other party was pregnant by someone.
  • one party is in the process of transitioning to a different gender.

How to declare a marriage null and void

The process for declaring a marriage null and void (an annulment) is as follows:

  • Complete an application for an annulment and file with the court with supporting documents (you should also keep a copy for your own records).
  • The other party then has 8 days to respond to the application to say whether they agree to the annulment.
  • If the other party agrees to the annulment, you can apply for a Conditional Order
  • When the court grants the Conditional Order, this confirms that there is no lawful reason that the marriage cannot be annulled.
  • 6 weeks after the Conditional Order is granted, you can apply for the Final Order, which might be referred to as a ‘decree of nullity’.

You must submit an application for an annulment within a reasonable timeframe, typically no more than three years after the marriage or within 6 months of a gender recognition certificate being granted.

To save time and potential costs, it’s advisable to gain a clear understanding of whether your marriage is likely to be void or voidable before proceeding with an annulment application. Our family law solicitors can provide the necessary support and guidance in this matter.

Our solicitors are here to help

For various reasons—whether religious, cultural, or due to legal constraints preventing divorce—annulment may be preferable to divorce for ending your marriage. However, as previously discussed, annulment is only viable under limited grounds of void or voidable marriages, making it unsuitable in many situations.

Our expert family law solicitors are committed to clarifying your circumstances and determining the feasibility of annulment, striving to make the process as stress-free and efficient as possible to provide you with the clarity you seek.

Avatar of DLS Solicitors by DLS Solicitors
24th April 2024
Avatar of DLS Solicitors
DLS Solicitors

Our team of professionals are based in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. We offer clear, specialist legal advice in all matters relating to Family Law, Wills, Trusts, Probate, Lasting Power of Attorney and Court of Protection.

All author posts
Related Posts
  • What Is A Clean Break Order?
    What Is A Clean Break Order?

    Discover what a clean break order entails with DLS Solicitors. Learn about the legal implications and benefits of obtaining a clean break order in divorce proceedings, including severing financial ties between former spouses. Our experienced team can provide guidance and support to help you understand the process and implications of clean break orders.

  • Understanding Your Rights in Divorce Proceedings: A Family Law Guide
    Understanding Your Rights in Divorce Proceedings: A Family Law Guide

    Divorce can be a challenging and emotional process for all parties involved. It is important to understand your rights and obligations during divorce proceedings to ensure a fair outcome. This guide will provide you with information on your legal rights in divorce, including financial settlements, child custody, and other important issues. Legal Grounds for Divorce

  • family law advice
    Do I Need Specialist Family Law Advice?

    Explore our concise overview to understand when seeking expert legal counsel becomes essential for resolving family-related matters. Trust DLS Solicitors for tailored advice and support in navigating complex family law issues.

  • Coping with Communication Issues in a Marriage
    Coping with Communication Issues in a Marriage

    Communication is the foundation of any successful marriage. When communication breaks down, it can lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and resentment. In order to maintain a healthy and happy marriage, it is important to address and cope with any communication issues that may arise. Recognising Communication Issues The first step in coping with communication issues in