An annulment is a way to end a marriage, similar to a divorce, however there are different legal or religious reasons why you may want to get an annulment instead of a divorce. Usually this is because the marriage was not valid.
Here we will explore all things annulment and answer the question, ‘what is an annulment?’.
You can apply for an annulment at any time after the wedding, unlike in a divorce where you have to wait at least a year. To get an annulment you need to show that the marriage was not valid in the first place, or that it is void for one of the following reasons:
A marriage is not legally valid if:
You are closely related
One of the parties was under 16 at the time of marriage
One of the parties was already married or in a civil partnership (bigamy)
The marriage is void if:
The marriage was not consummated – you have not had sexual intercourse since the wedding. This does not apply to same sex couples as sexual intercourse is defined in English law as being between a man and a woman
One of the parties did not fully consent to the marriage for example if you were drunk at the time of the wedding or were forced into the marriage
One of the parties had a sexually transmitted disease when you got married
The female party was pregnant by another man at the time of the wedding
Is it easy to petition for divorce after adultery?
While the divorce rate after adultery is high, divorce petitions that rely on adultery are relatively rare.
Not only does the person filing the divorce petition have to have knowledge that the adultery has taken place (suspicion does not count) but the respondent must admit to the adultery.
If the respondent fails to admit to the adultery, the Court will arrange a hearing and both parties will be required to give evidence.
Generally, it is not possible to provide direct evidence so circumstantial evidence may be relied on. The Court may also require evidence not just of an opportunity to commit adultery, but also of an inclination or passion to commit it.
Once the Court has heard and/or read all the evidence, it will decide as to whether the respondent committed adultery based on the balance of probabilities.
This approach carries a certain amount of risk, and we always recommend to clients that want to serve a divorce petition on the grounds of adultery, that they agree with their ex-spouse beforehand that they will admit to the adultery and complete and sign the Acknowledgement of Service form.
Alternatively, you can use the supporting fact of your spouse’s unreasonable behaviour but refer to the adultery as an example of their behaviour. A reference of “improper association,” can also be listed as another example of their unreasonable behaviour.
Applying for annulment
Applying for an annulment is effectively the same as for a divorce; you will need to fill in the appropriate “Nullity Petition” forms and send these off to the court with the applicable fee (see divorce costs). Once the other party has responded to the nullity petition then you can apply for the decree nisi and 6 weeks later the decree absolute.
It is possible to do all this yourself, however as there are complexities to the whole process we would recommend seeking independent legal advice to help guide you through the whole journey, especially if children or complex financial issues may exist.
I got married in Las Vegas, does this count in the UK?
This depends on the circumstances. If you did not consent to the marriage or were unable to, for example because you were drunk, then you may be able to apply for an annulment. If however you were fully aware of what you were doing, just because this was a Vegas wedding does not mean it is not valid. Provided the officials present were qualified and all paperwork was complete, the marriage would be recognised in the UK. You may need to apply for a divorce. Get in touch to discuss jurisdiction issues with us.
My husband was married to someone else when we married, what are my options?
Usually in this instance you are able to apply to have the marriage annulled because the marriage was never legally valid. You will need to show evidence of the pre-existing marriage to the court and apply using the Nullity Petition.
Is it adultery if it’s before marriage?
A partner who has been unfaithful before the marriage has not committed adultery. It is only considered to be adultery if it continues after the marriage has taken place.
My wife is pregnant, I’m not sure it’s mine. Can I get our marriage annulled?
The only way you could have the marriage annulled is if you know your wife was pregnant during the wedding and that the baby is not yours. If your wife fell pregnant after the wedding then the marriage was valid. In this case you may need to file for divorce. If however you can show that the pregnancy happened before the wedding day and there is supporting evidence to show the child is not yours, then you may be able to apply for annulment.
We have been married for over a year but never had sex. Can I get a divorce?
If you have never had sexual intercourse (man and woman) then the marriage is void and you can apply for an annulment. If the annulment is contested, the burden of proof may be on you to prove that you have never had intercourse with your spouse. However you should be able to apply for an annulment. Even after over a year you can still apply for annulment but there may be some cases where a divorce would apply.
Need to discuss your options?
Our top divorce lawyers have decades of experience working on a variety of cases, which means that we will understand your unique needs.
Whether you want to talk to an expert about no-fault divorce and if it’s worth waiting for one, or start proceedings, give us a call at 0330 404 2031, or request a free call back on a date and at a time of your choice.
Gavin Scott Thank you so much for your professional consultation. I am delving into the unknown, and your clear knowledge has now given me clarity. I explained my goals to you in my situation and you laid it on the line for me ... so we will now go after the outcome I feel is correct and with you representing me I have absolutely no doubt the end result will be exactly that. Thank you.
Client: Mr J
Mark Christie provided me with exceptional support throughout a very difficult divorce. His professionalism and robust attention to detail are second to none. He gave me hard facts alongside solid advice and guidance throughout the whole process. His robust and pragmatic approach was reassuring and I certainly felt Mark shouldered the burden of my divorce allowing me to sleep at night knowing I had an excellent solicitor acting for me. I will always be grateful to Mark and would highly recommend him, more so I'm certainly grateful he was in my corner!
Client: Mrs D
Chose Stowe Family Law with confidence. It is difficult to choose a solicitors firm, especially if you are parting with your hard-earned cash and the situation you find yourself in is an emotional one. Legal advice and representation is expensive, there is no getting away from that but at Stowe Family Law, you get value for money in the form of high quality, empathetic and pragmatic advice. Whilst we were busy pouring out our emotions, they were busy focusing on the facts of the matter and captured everything perfectly in a concise and no-nonsense manner. Stowe Family Law really made us feel as though they were on our side and genuinely supportive of our case whilst also being honest and realistic about the likely outcomes of the case, thus helping to manage our expectations. I highly recommend them.
Client: Ms J
Thank you to Hannah and Nastassia, who were invaluable in getting me through a difficult divorce. I was taken through the process in detail, my questions were answered and every detail was taken into consideration. They made the process as speedy as possible and along with succinct and clear communication, were thorough, fair, transparent and precise. Very much appreciated was the care taken emotionally while remaining appropriately business-like which made an unpleasant situation as painless as possible. Many, many thanks for your excellent work on my behalf.
Client: Mrs S
I had gone through a tough time in a very un-amicable divorce. Having used 2 previous solicitor firms who racked up ££££'s of costs it wasn't moving very far at all. Through recommendation of a friend I contacted Rebecca Calden-Storr at Stowe Family Law. From the very first contact right to getting a final court result that I was extremely happy with, the process was very quick, precise and stress free unlike the previous 2 firms that botched it. The service is faultless and I was made to feel very easy and comfortable through the events, so much so on the court day I felt very at ease and relaxed about the whole process. In all honesty if you are looking for not just a family lawyer but an outstanding family lawyer I could not recommend Rebecca Calden-Storr at Stowe Family Law enough.
Client: Mr T
Fantastic professional service from Claire Ward and her team. Claire was extremely knowledgeable, kind and patient during a difficult period of my life . Nothing was too much trouble and she was extremely patient with me as emotions ran high. The service was efficient and very reasonably priced for the time taken. I would recommend Claire and her team to assist families in need of expert advice during divorce, separation and child matters. Thank you for your service Claire.
Client: Mrs T
I find myself wondering how to write a review about something nobody would ever want to go through - Divorce. However, having considered that I'm now what could be described as experienced in the matter (twice), it leaves me extremely happy to make the following quote; Mark has handled my case in what can only be described as an utmost professional manner. From the extremely well informative initial consultation, to the exceptionally well balanced professional / personal support as the case came to fruition. I feel that I entered the representation with haste and left with a friend. I can say no more and would recommended him to anyone.
Client: Mr S
Thank you so much for your help in the last year and a bit. I will say the following:
You have at all times acted in a very professional manner and your letters to my wife’s solicitor were very eloquently written with all needed facts in place.
I think with another solicitor the outcome would have been completely different and not as successful as it was. You have a great understanding marital law and I would not hesitate to recommend you to someone else in the future.