To apply for an annulment means to terminate a marriage that is not legally valid or is defective.

Void Marriage

  • Is a marriage that never legally existed;
  • This is because the marriage is either unlawful or invalid due to a fundamental flaw in its legality.  

The Matrimonial Causes Act looks at the formalities and capacities of a void marriage. These include:

Minor’s wedding

Weddings under the age of 16

If the bride or groom is between the ages of 16 and 18 then it is necessary to obtain a parental written consent. It is possible for the minor to apply to court and have the parental consent requirement revoked.

Prohibited relationship for Marriage

  1. This is in regard to a marriage between two related to each other in a way that is prohibited; such as:
  1. Parent – child
  2. Grandparent – Grandchild
  3. Brother – Sister
  4. Uncle – Niece
  5. Aunt – Nephew

These also include relation of half-blood excluding first cousin marriages.

Disregard of Formalities for Marriage

Legal formalities have been disregarded

The exact requirements depend on whether the marriage was performed within the rites of a Church or outside.

The purpose of having formalities can be said to be as follows:

  1. The formality requirements draw a clear line between marriage, an engagement, and an agreement to cohabit,
  2. The formality requirements ensure that the parties do not enter into a marriage in an ill-considered.  

Check that the venue you are getting married at has a valid marriage license, as it is an important legal formality.

A 3rd party can apply for the marriage to be void, if formalities have not been complied with.  


The offence of getting married to two at the same time.
  • Such marriage is void from the date of the 2nd marriage.
  • Even if the first spouse dies during the second marriage the marriage will remain void.
  • If a person is marriage and wishes to marry another they must obtain a divorce or until the death of the spouse.

Third Parties

Disregarded formalities:

If any of these formalities have not been complied with then a 3rd party can apply for the marriage to be void.

Voidable Marriage

A voidable marriage is a marriage that can be annulled at the option of one of the parties.

  • Once the marriage has been deemed voidable it is as though the marriage never existed.

Time Requirements

An application for a decree of nullity time limit is within 3 years from the marriage date, with the exception of a petition for impotence.


According to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 a person’s marriage shall be voidable if:

Non consummation of marriage

If the marriage has not been completed due to the incapacity of either party. Note there is no court time limit.

Consummate definition

An incapacity or consummation is defined as an act of sexual intercourse carried out by the penetration of the vagina by the penis.

Inability to Consummate

Is when such inability cannot be cured by surgery and is permanent. The inability could be either physical or psychological factors, which could include:

Wilful Refusal to Consummate

The marriage has not been consummated due to the refusal of a party to consummate:

  • The petitioner must be able to show that the party is wilfully going out of their way to make sure the marriage is not consummated.
  • There is also no time limit as to when a petitioner can apply.

No Valid Consent

Either party to the marriage did not validly consent to it, whether in consequence of duress, mistake, mental incapacity, or otherwise.


  • It is when someone gets married because of fear or threats,
  • Such marriage is voidable due to duress.
  • The test for duress is on the effect of the threat rather than the nature.
  • Threat can come from a third party or the spouse.  


Currently the law only allows two kinds of mistake to negate consent:

  1. Mistake as to the other party’s identity and;
  2. The nature of the ceremony

Example 1:

If one party believes the ceremony is for an engagement rather than a marriage.

Unsoundness of Mind

  • Unsoundness of mind can only exist at the time of the marriage.
  • If a person lacks the capacity to marry, no one else can consent on their behalf.

Test for capacity

The test for capacity focus on whether or not the individual understood the duties and responsibilities attached to marriage.

The individual must also have the capacity to consent to sexual intercourse, in its nature and the extent of its consequences.

Marriage by Fraud and Misrepresentation

Fraud and Misrepresentation:

  • If the fraud or misrepresentation leads to a mistake as to the identity of the other party or nature of the ceremony, then the marriage will be nullified.

Drunkenness of either Bride or Groom on the occasion of Wedding

  • At the time of the marriage either party, though capable of giving a valid consent, was suffering (whether continuously or intermittently) from mental disorder, within the meaning of the act, to such an extent as to be unfitted for marriage
  • Incapability to carry out the ordinary duties and obligations of a marriage
  • Such marriage will be nullified.

Mental Health Act 1983

  • At the time of the marriage either party, though capable of giving a valid consent, was suffering (whether continuously or intermittently) from mental disorder within the meaning of [the Mental Health Act 1983]of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfitted for marriage
  • Incapability to carry out the ordinary duties and obligations of a marriage the marriage will be nullified.

Venereal Disease

  • At the time of the marriage the respondent was suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form
  • Venereal disease is not defined in the Act.

Adultery Prior to the Marriage Resulting in Pregnancy

  • At the time of the marriage the respondent was pregnant by some person other than the petitioner
  • The Groom must be completely unaware of his partner’s pregnancy
  • Bride must have been pregnant on the date of the marriage
  • If the bride became pregnant after the date of her marriage then the groom cannot apply for the marriage to be nullified.

Gender Recognition Act 2004

An interim gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 has, after the time of the marriage, been issued to either party to the marriage:

  • Either party can apply for the marriage to become voidable once the Gender Recognition certificate has been received recognising the person as their ‘acquired gender’.
  • A spouse who is unhappy with the marriage, given their spouses ‘acquired gender’ to have the marriage annulled has 6 months after the Gender Recognition Certificate is granted to nullify the marriage.


Defences can only be applied to voidable marriages and can also only be applied for by the respondent. The court will not grant a decree of nullity if:

  1. On the grounds that marriage is voidable if the petitioner had knowledge that would allow him or her to have the marriage avoided and yet behaved in a way so as to lead the respondent to reasonably believe that there would be no such application to annul the marriage
  2. That it would be unjust to the respondent to grant the decree of nullity.

For further details and advice please consult legalally’s experienced family lawyers who will support and guide you through out your family issue.


While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Each legal case and issue may have unique facts and circumstances, as a result legalally does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information provided. For further help and guidance, you can always rely on and seek advice from our experienced lawyers.

Scroll to Top