Annulment is a declaration by the court that a marriage was never legally valid or has become invalid for a specified legal reason. Under English and Welsh law, an annulment may be granted for a number of different reasons, including if the marriage hasn’t been consummated, if either party was already married at the time of the marriage and other more technical legal reasons.
Annulment solicitors - how to annul a marriage in the UK
Clear advice on how to annul a marriage from real experts
The grounds for obtaining an annulment are not always straight-forward, and you will need to discuss your particular circumstances in detail with a family lawyer who specialises in this area of law. For advice, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.
You must apply to the court to annul the marriage by making an application within a reasonable period of time, and, in many cases, this will be within three years of the marriage. Unlike divorce, there is no requirement to have been married for 12 months before applying.
Our annulment solicitors can assist with:
- Whether there are grounds for your marriage to be annulled
- The legal process for annulling a marriage
- Any practical issues that need to be resolved, e.g. what happens to the family home, division of finances and arrangements for any children you have
Take a look at our team to find an annulment solicitor near you.
Speak to an experienced marriage annulment solicitor today
Take advantage of a free 30-minute telephone appointment to talk through your situation and the possibility of an annulment. We will explain your options and how we can help. You will find our marriage annulment solicitors are friendly, approachable and knowledgeable.
We offer a detailed case assessment for £500+VAT, including consideration of your case by an experienced lawyer and advice and guidance on your next steps – you can find out more about this here.
Key facts about marriage annulment
What is an annulment?
An annulment is a legal process for declaring that a registered marriage was not, in fact, valid or has become invalid. If you secure an annulment, it will be as if you were never married.
What is the difference between divorce and annulment?
Divorce is a process for ending a legal marriage whereas, when you annul a marriage, you are declaring that the marriage was never legally valid in the first place or that it has become invalid. Unlike divorce you can apply for an annulment in the first year or marriage, if the criteria for annulment are met.
Can you annul a marriage in the UK?
You can get an annulment in the UK if you meet the criteria. Please see ‘What are the grounds for getting an annulment in the UK?’ below for more information.
It is important to note that, at Woolley & Co, we deal with annulments for clients in England and Wales – the requirements in Scotland and Northern Ireland may be different, so you would need to consult a firm with specific expertise in those nations.
How do you get an annulment?
If your marriage is eligible for annulment (see ‘’What are the grounds for getting an annulment?’ below), then you will need to make an application to the court requesting the annulment.
The basic process is:
- 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 to the marriage will have 8 days to respond to the application saying whether they agree to the annulment or not
- 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 the court sees no lawful reason that the marriage cannot be annulled
- 6 weeks after the Conditional Order is granted, you will be able to apply for the Final Order, which might be referred to as a ‘decree of nullity’
Alongside your application to annul your marriage, you can also apply to the court to make a Financial Order if you need the court to decide how your finances should be separated.
What are the grounds for getting an annulment in the UK?
Annulment, or ‘nullity’ as it is known in law, falls into two categories:
- Marriages that are void
- Marriages that are voidable
A void marriage is one that was not legally valid. For example one party was already married. If the marriage was not legally valid the law says it never existed. Nevertheless, a party to such a marriage may still wish to obtain an order from the court to prove this, for example if they wish to marry again.
A voidable marriage is one that is legally valid but meets one of the grounds below.
The grounds on which a marriage is voidable in England and Wales are:
- That the marriage has not been consummated owing to the incapacity of either party
- That the marriage has not been consummated owing to the wilful refusal of the other party to consummate it
- That either party did not validly consent to it, whether in consequence of duress, mistake, incapacity or otherwise
- That at the time of the marriage, either party, though capable of giving valid consent, was suffering from a mental disorder
- That at the time of the marriage, the respondent was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- That, at the time of the marriage, the respondent was pregnant by some person other than the petitioner
- That an interim gender recognition certificate has been granted to either party in the preceding 6 months
- That the other party is a person whose gender at the time of the marriage had been acquired under the Gender Recognition Act.
Although these conditions sound relatively self-explanatory, the law expands further and far more has to be established in order to satisfy the courts that an annulment should be granted.
Not only does each ground go into great detail before you can consider whether your marriage is voidable, but the court can also bar a person from applying in certain circumstances (for example, where the person applying can be said to have accepted the situation). It is a very complex area of the law.
How long do you have to annul a marriage?
You must present the application for an annulment to the court within a reasonable time and, often no more than three years after the marriage took place or within 6 months of a gender recognition certificate being granted
What is a religious annulment?
Several religions have the concept of marriage annulment but legal annulment of a marriage is not the same as a religious annulment. For example, 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. 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.
What is a void marriage?
Void marriages are void from the beginning and can, in theory, be treated by both parties as never having taken place, so they don’t even need to seek an annulment from the court.
However, it is almost always advisable to do so to provide some evidence that the parties are free to remarry should they wish to do so in the future.
A marriage that could be void from the start could be, for example, that one party was already married to another, or because one party was underage at the time, or perhaps they were not permitted legally to marry each other in the first place (i.e. if they were related by blood).
What is a voidable marriage?
A voidable marriage is valid unless and until an annulment has been granted.
There are various grounds upon which a marriage could be voidable, for example, if one party:
- Wilfully refused to consummate the marriage
- Was pregnant by someone other than their husband at the time of the marriage
- Did not give valid consent, for example, because of unsoundness of mind, mistake or duress
There are other grounds too, but these are the main ones we come across.
Some grounds require the application to be brought within 3 years of the marriage, so it is important to take advice early to understand if these apply to your case.
Can you get financial provision when getting an annulment?
Whether the marriage is void or voidable, if an application for nullity is issued, the parties can take advantage of the court’s powers to grant financial provision, just as they can with a divorce.
It is vital to take legal advice to explore whether you need to make a financial claim against your spouse when you apply for the annulment.
How long does an annulment take?
If you are eligible for an annulment and the case is uncontested (i.e. both parties agree to the annulment), it will take between six to eight months to process.
Do you need to go to court to have a marriage annulled?
If the application for an annulment is not contested, it is unlikely that you will need to attend court.
If the annulment application is contested, our experts can support you through the process, including any court appearances you are required to make.
How much does it cost to annul a marriage?
In a case that is uncontested, we can arrange an annulment for a fixed fee of £1,410 plus VAT and the Court fee of £593.00.
In some cases, another party can oppose the annulment. This can sometimes result in your lawyer needing to obtain and produce for court a lot of additional evidence and, in some instances, the court case is long and involved too. In these circumstances, talk to Woolley & Co solicitors about handling your case on an hourly rate basis.
Is it better to annul a marriage or get a divorce?
Only in relatively few circumstances will annulment be an option. If it is, in your case, some reasons to consider annulling a marriage rather than getting a divorce include if:
- You have not yet been married for 12 months, so cannot legally divorce
- There are religious, cultural or other personal reasons for not wanting to divorce
- One party to the marriage was not able to validly consent to the marriage e.g. due to mental impairment
Our team will be happy to advise on the best approach to take for your circumstances. We are highly experienced with all aspects of family law, so are equally able to assist with both divorce and annulment.
Our marriage annulment solicitors nationwide are here for you
Whatever your reasons for seeking an annulment, we recognise that this is likely to be a difficult time that requires sensitive handling. Our team are here to guide you and make the process of getting an annulment as simple and stress-free as possible.