By Punam Denley of Blanchards Law.

As divorce law currently stands in England & Wales, you cannot bring a Divorce Petition to end the marriage until a year has elapsed since the date of the wedding. At Blanchards Law, we are often approached by clients seeking to bring an end to their union in that first twelve month period.

An Annulment, or a Nullity Decree means that you are treated either as if you had never been married. In that way, it is quite different to divorce, because when your marriage is dissolved by divorce, you are treated by the law as having been married before.

Annulments are quite rare now, although they can be used for religious reasons, and we have had clients who wanted them because they were forced into a marriage by family pressure or where the marriage was never consummated.

These are serious matters, involving a compulsory court hearing at which you give evidence to a judge, even if the nullity application is not defended by the other party to the marriage.


Void Marriages

The marriage is declared void, and therefore never took place. You can apply for a Nullity Decree (same as a void marriage) on the following grounds:


  • If the marriage is with a party too closely related to you by blood, for example, you can’t marry your brother/sister/mother etc.
  • If one of the parties to the marriage is below sixteen years of age. It doesn’t matter if you marry that person in a country which allows marriage with a person under that age;
  • If at the time of the marriage one of the parties was already married to someone else.
  • The parties were not respectively male and female.
  • The parties proceeded to marry although they knew that rules had not been observed; for example, marriage banns which in certain Christian faiths are necessary before a wedding can take place.









Voidable Marriages


The marriage exists until the date of the Nullity Decree, after which, it is declared void. You can apply for a decree on the following grounds:


  • The marriage has not been consummated because one party can’t, or won’t. Consummation means normal sexual intercourse.
  • If either party to the marriage did not consent to the marriage, because of pressure placed upon them, mistake, mental illness or any other reason.
  • If one of the parties had a communicable venereal disease at the time of the marriage and they were aware of this at the time, but did not tell the Petitioner.
  • If one of the parties was pregnant with another person’s child at the time of the marriage and they were aware of this at the time, but did not tell the Petitioner.


You do not have to wait twelve months from the date of the marriage to bring nullity proceedings.

ü  You must apply to annul the marriage within a reasonable period of time, normally this will be within three years.

ü  You can’t bring nullity proceedings if you have already started divorce proceedings.

ü  You can’t apply to annul your marriage because of your own wish for non-consummation.

You can also bring an end to your civil partnership by annulment.



© Punam Denley, March 2013

Blanchards Law is a niche family law practice with divorce solicitors, mediators and collaborative lawyers.

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