Annulment of marriage
Updated 16 May 2019
Words you may need to know
Annulment – cancelled, dissolved
Valid – legal, binding, in force
An annulment of a marriage means that the court will say that the marriage was never legally valid.
Certain marriages can be ended because:-
- the marriage was not allowed and so it never really existed. This is called a void marriage or;
- some things which are expected in a marriage were not met. The court can then annul these marriages. They are called voidable marriages.
If you are thinking of asking for your marriage to be annulled, you don’t have to use a lawyer but it may be wise to do so. The Judicial Greffe or Citizens Advice Jersey can give you information on lawyers who specialise in family matters and are members of the Family Law Association.
Void marriage (invalid / unacceptable)
2 A marriage is void if:-
- either person was under sixteen years of age at the time of the marriage
- either person is already married to someone else
- the two people are closely related to each other and legally unable to marry
- the marriage ceremony was not properly carried out
3 If you feel that your marriage may have been invalid for any of the above reasons, you should contact the Superintendent Registrar, on 441335 to check the facts (if the marriage took place in Jersey). The Registrar has to pass on the matter to the Attorney General for a ruling where the parties do not agree, although this is very rare (one case in twenty years). In the case of bigamy (where one party to the marriage is already married to someone else) this is a criminal offence and you should get legal advice.
4 The Royal Court may annul a marriage and give what is called a declaration of nullity where the marriage is either void or voidable although you would not need to get a declaration of nullity in a void marriage as the marriage has no legal status. It is regarded as never having happened. It is better to take legal advice and to get an annulment so that there is no doubt as to whether you are or are not married. This would be really important if for example one person wished to get married again.
Voidable marriages - reasons
5 A marriage is voidable and may be annulled if:-
- there is an on - going inability to have sex (impotence) by either party since the marriage date.
- either partner has without reason refused to consummate the marriage. Consummating the marriage is making the marriage legal by having sex for the first time.
- the marriage took place as a result of fraud, threats or pressure put on the person asking for the annulment by their partner.
- the husband is asking for an annulment as his wife was pregnant by someone other than him, unless the pregnancy came from a relationship with the wife's former husband whilst she was still legally married to him
- you are asking for an annulment as the person you married had a sexual disease (venereal ) at the time of the marriage
- a gender recognition certificate has, after the time of marriage, been issued to either party to the marriage
- either party is taking steps to have the gender changed as recognised by law
- if the gender at the time of marriage for one party was an acquired gender
- either party at the time of the marriage was mentally unstable which made then unsuitable for getting married and having children or had repeated attacks of insanity or epilepsy
6 In the case of the grounds on gender change, pregnancy, venereal disease and insanity, it must be shown that:-
- you were not aware of those facts at the time of the marriage
- you are asking for an annulment within a year of the date of the marriage
- since you discovered the facts alleged, consensual sex has not taken place
7 Any cases for annulment on the grounds of impotency, or not consummating the marriage, are held in private rather than in open court.
8 You apply for an annulment in much the same way that you petition for a divorce. There is no need for a hearing unless the annulment is contested. Contested means that the other person does not agree with it. A decree of annulment in a voidable marriage starts from the time the decree is made absolute. A decree being made absolute is the last legal ruling, for example final. The marriage is treated as if it existed up to that time.
Full details can be found under Article 18 of the Matrimonial Causes (Jersey) Law 1949 (revised)
Children of a void marriage
9 The child/ren of a marriage declared void through matters that could not have been foreseen, where both people involved thought they were legally married, would remain legitimate, but only if the father is resident in Jersey. Legitimate means that they are considered legally to be the child of the mother/ father.
10 The child/ren of a marriage annulled under the grounds listed in para 5 remain legitimate regardless of the fact that the marriage has been annulled.