Family Matters

Your monthly family law digest from Woolley & Co, Solicitors


April 2016

Annulment just got easier – well, not really

As divorce lawyers, we are often asked how to get an annulment to a marriage, and, like many areas of family law, there are often a great number of urban myths to dispel before addressing the original question. It has recently been widely reported that Pope Francis has reformed the annulment process. Whilst this is true for a religious annulment, it is not true for the annulments which we seek in the Family Court. 

In Brief

Why a parenting course may be just what separating parents need

“Why are the Courts sending me on a Separated Parents Information Programme?” is a question many clients ask me when them come away from court with an order to attend the Separated Parents Information programme. They seem to...
... more

What is a clean break order?

We often hear divorcing couples say they want a “clean break”. How many of them however, really understand what is meant legally by “a clean break”? Having a clean break means that from a date...
... more

How to get a divorce online—at last!

At Woolley & Co we have been doing our work online since last century. Now there is astonishing news from the court system. Sir James Munby set out what he positioned as not just a vision, but something that can...
... more

State pension changes and the impact on divorce settlements

The current State Pension changes from 6 April 2016 and there will no longer be a basic state pension with additional state pension (ASP) elements, but one single tier flat rate pension payable to a person with 35 years of national insurance contributions....
... more

Cohabiting couples should not leave things to chance

With cohabiting couples being the fastest growing family type in the UK (according to the most recent ONS Families & Households report) as family lawyers we think it’s important that a couple who chooses to live together rather...
... more

Legal Annulment

An annulment is a way of ending a marriage, as is a divorce. It can however only be obtained in a few cases and it is expensive and often much more difficult to establish relatively limited grounds. Some clients may want an annulment if they have religious reasons for not wanting to divorce, but they will need to show that the marriage was either not valid in the first place, or is defective for one of the following reasons:

The marriage is not legally valid and can be annulled as a ‘void’ marriage, as it was not legally valid in the first place - for example

  • the parties are closely related
  • one of the parties was under 16
  • one of the parties were already married or in a civil partnership

If a marriage was void, the law says that it never existed. However, it is necessary to get an annulment and the legal paperwork to prove this if they want to get married again.

Alternatively, (and more commonly), the marriage is annulled as being defective and will be considered a ‘voidable’ marriage and can be annulled if:

  • it wasn’t consummated - the couple haven’t had sex with the person they married since the wedding (this doesn’t apply for same sex couples)
  • one of the parties didn’t properly consent to the marriage - eg they were drunk or forced into it
  • the other person had a sexually transmitted disease when they got married
  • the woman was pregnant by another man when she got married.

Marriages annulled for these reasons are known as ‘voidable’ marriages.

Religious Annulment 

The legal annulment is not the same as a religious annulment. Under the revised Catholic church guidelines, to achieve an annulment a couple will only need a church tribunal decision and not an additional confirming decision. Straightforward cases will now have annulment granted by a local bishop. 

The grounds on which a religious annulment could be sought include an extramarital relationship at the time of the marriage, abortion and one of the parties lacking religious faith. Critically for many, the changes mean Catholics who wish to remarry will be able to have their second marriage recognised by the church.

Unlike divorce, in which a marriage is dissolved, an annulment is based on the church recognising the marriage was never properly entered into in the first place. 

The important thing to note is that if you want to sever the legal ties created by marriage, or plan to remarry you must obtain either a divorce or a legal annulment. A religious annulment has no legal status in English law.

If you want advice on a legal dissolution of a marriage, please feel free to contact one of the experienced Woolley & Co Solicitors. If you are seeking advice on a religious annulment, you will need to speak to a Bishop or another church representative. 

Tamara Glanvill
Divorce and family law solicitor, Bedford


Woolley & Co, Solicitors
Warwick Enterprise Park,
Warwick CV35 9EF
Call 0800 321 3832
Mobile 0330 330 3832
Outside UK +44 (0)1789 330310     

© Woolley & Co, Solicitors. All rights reserved. No unauthorised copying, extraction or other use is allowed except with our prior written permission. Woolley & Co Solicitors is the trading name of Woolley & Co Limited, company number 07387222. Woolley & Co, Solicitors is a member of the Law Society and authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. A list of directors is available from our registered office which is Warwick Enterprise Park, Wellesbourne, Warwick, CV35 9EF. VAT Reg. No. 687 644 675.

Click here to unsubscribe.