Nullity of Marriage

Nullity is the historic remedy for a bad marriage, much favoured by Henry VIII. It is a claim that the marriage should be annulled, declared a nullity and not to have happened, as it has not met the legal criteria for a marriage.

A nullity petition maybe presented on, amongst others, the following grounds:

  • That the marriage has not been consummated (i.e. you have not had sexual intercourse with the other party since you were married);
  • At the time of the marriage your partner was already married to someone else;
  • One of you was under 16 years of age when you got married;
  • You have inter-married (i.e. married a close relative);
  • Your partner had venereal disease (and probably now any sexually transmitted disease including AIDS) at the time of the marriage and they were aware of this at the time, but you were not;
  • Your partner was pregnant with another person’s child at the time of the marriage and they were aware of this at the time, but you were not;
  • Fraud or duress preventing legal consent to the marriage;
  • Sexual impotence of one spouse that existed at the time the marriage was contracted and was unknown to the other spouse.

In certain cases, such as bigamy and incest, the marriage can be declared void ab initio, and will be as if it never existed. In other cases, the marriage will be voidable, and can be declared void at the instigation of one of the parties.

Applications to the court must be made within a reasonable time of discovering the impediment to the marriage and probably within 3 years.

The consequences are different to divorce or judicial separation, as following a decree of nullity, neither party will have any liability to the other arising out of the marriage.

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