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What is an annulment and why is it different to divorce/dissolution?

Like a divorce/dissolution, an annulment is a way of legally ending your marriage/civil partnership.

Last updated on January 15th, 2024 at 04:59 pm

Latest posts by Bradie Pell (see all)

    Ending a marriage/civil partnership is never easy. Indeed, for both parties involved, it is often a stressful and emotional time. While divorce/dissolution is the most common way to end a marriage/civil partnership, annulment is another option open to some couples in the UK.  Just like a divorce/dissolution, an annulment legally ends a marriage/civil partnership. If you are considering ending a marriage/civil partnership and want to understand your options better, then carry on reading. Here, Graysons’ explain what an annulment is and how it is different to divorce/dissolution.

    What is an annulment in the UK?

    An annulment in the UK is a legal way of ending of your marriage/civil partnership. There are two annulment options:  the first stating that the marriage/civil partnership was “void”, therefore declaring that it never legally happened;  or the second that it was “voidable” which means that the marriage/civil partnership did exist, but it falls under one of the legal reasons to be granted an annulment. To get an annulment, you must satisfy the courts that the marriage/civil partnership was either void or that the marriage/civil partnership falls into one of the criteria to make it voidable. Some people seek an annulment instead of a divorce/dissolution for religious reasons. 

    What is a divorce/dissolution in the UK?

    Divorce/dissolution of civil partnership in the UK is the most common way to end a marriage/civil partnership legally.  To be granted a divorce/dissolution in England and Wales, you must have been married/in a civil partnership for more than a year and prove that the UK is your permanent home. You can apply for a divorce/dissolution yourself or jointly with your partner.  One or both of you must declare that your marriage/civil partnership has broken down irretrievably.

    Is there a time limit on getting an annulment?

    There is no time limit on getting an annulment, and applications for nullity may be submitted at any time after the marriage/civil partnership. However, both parties must prove that they have lived in England and Wales for at least a year. On the other hand, if you wish to apply for a divorce/dissolution, you must have been married for at least a year. 

    How long does it take to get an annulment?

    It is hard to accurately state how long an annulment will take as no two cases are ever the same. However, on average, you can expect an annulment to typically take around six to eight months. 

    What qualifies as an annulment in UK law?

    In order to be granted an annulment in the UK, your divorce/dissolution lawyer must prove to the courts that your marriage is either void or that it meets one of the specific reasons to make it voidable.

    Examples of a void marriage/civil partnership include:

    • You or your ex-partner were already married or in a civil partnership when the marriage took place
    • You or your ex-partner were under the age of 16 at the time of the marriage/civil partnership ceremony
    • You or your ex-partner are closely related
    • The marriage/civil partnership ceremony was held in a place not legally registered to perform the ceremony

    Examples of a voidable marriage/civil partnership include:

    • You or your ex-partner were forced into the marriage/civil partnership under duress
    • You or your ex-partner were in the process of gender transitioning
    • You or your ex-partner were pregnant by another man at the date of the marriage/civil partnership
    • Your or your ex-partner had a sexually transmitted disease
    • The marriage was not consummated
    • You or your ex-partner did not have the mental capacity to agree to the marriage/civil partnership

    If your marriage/civil partnership is void, then there is no need to apply for a formal order to annul it as it technically never existed. If your marriage is voidable, then you must apply to the courts for an annulment. Either way, you should work with an experienced divorce lawyer to ensure your legal rights are protected.

    What are the benefits of an annulment versus a divorce/dissolution?

    One of the main benefits of an annulment versus a divorce is that you can get an annulment any time after the wedding/civil partnership. If you apply for a divorce/dissolution, you can only do so after you have been married/in a civil partnership for a year. If you qualify for an annulment, there is also no division of property or other assets as they are typically assigned back to their original owner, as they were before the marriage/civil partnership. Any debt accrued during the marriage/civil partnership is often split evenly.

    If you are considering ending your marriage/civil partnership, it is important that you discuss your options with an experienced divorce lawyer who will be able to explain the processes involved and whether divorce/dissolution or annulment is right for you.

    Will I need to attend court to get an annulment?

    It is unlikely that you will need to attend court to get an annulment. In many cases, your divorce/dissolution lawyer will work to try and avoid court through a process of mediation and negotiation. If the matter does end up in court, then your divorce/dissolution solicitor will be able to attend on your behalf.

    How do I choose a divorce/dissolution lawyer to help me end my marriage/civil partnership?

    It is important you choose the right divorce lawyer to help you end your marriage, whether it be through the more traditional divorce/dissolution route, or by an annulment. The first thing you should do is check your divorce/dissolution solicitor’s credentials, to ensure they have the right qualifications and experience required. You should also choose a divorce solicitor who you feel comfortable with. A divorce/dissolution solicitor will support you throughout the entire annulment or  divorce/dissolution process, listening to you, discussing your options, giving you trusted advice and support, while ensuring your legal rights are protected. 

    Do I need to use a divorce/dissolution lawyer near me to get an annulment?

    No, you do you not need to use a local divorce lawyer to get an annulment. Graysons’ team of Sheffield, Chesterfield and Hathersage divorce lawyers have helped people across the UK to get an annulment. The entire process can be managed digitally, including video calls with your divorce/dissolution solicitor, as well as email or by post.  When ending your marriage/civil partnership, you need an experienced divorce lawyer who can help you ensure a seamless process that best protects your interests.

    How can Graysons help me get an annulment?

    Graysons’ team are experts in their field and can help end your marriage/civil partnership through either an annulment or a divorce/dissolution.

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