Nullity – this is when a court grants a Decree of Annulment which means that the marriage has been dissolved.
It is important to understand that a Decree of Annulment is not the same as a Decree of Divorce. Nullity is where a valid marriage never existed. Divorce is where a marriage is over.
There are two types of marriages that can be annulled; a void marriage and a voidable marriage.
Void marriage and a Voidable marriage
A void marriage is a marriage that never existed in the first place. A voidable marriage is considered to be a valid marriage until the court grants a Decree of Annulment
When an application for a Decree of Annulment is made to court the Judge must be satisfied that it has been proven that there are grounds to grant the Decree as follows:
- There was a lack of capacity on the part of either spouse at the time of the marriage ceremony. That means that either spouse was incapable of entering into the marriage contract for one of the following reasons
- One of the parties was already validly married or in a civil partnership
- The parties are too closely related to each other
- The marriage took place before 16th November 2015 and the parties were of the same sex
- Formal requirements for a marriage ceremony were not followed i.e. appropriate notice was not given to the Registrar of Marriages.
- There was a lack of consent on the part of either spouse. This means that either spouse did not freely and fully consent to the marriage for example due to being forced into the marriage, or by mistake or misrepresentation etc.
- Either party was impotent at the time of the marriage ceremony. That is incapable of sexual intercourse.
- Either party was unable to enter into and sustain a proper or normal marital relationship at the time of the marriage ceremony. This can be due to psychiatric issues or the sexual orientation of one of the parties.
It is also important to understand that a church annulment is not a legal annulment. You cannot legally remarry although you may be able to remarry in the eyes of the church.
The law in relation to nullity is a very complex area and it is important to have legal advice as to whether there are indeed grounds for a nullity in a particular circumstance.