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 056 3171, or request a free call back on a date and at a time of your choice.
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