Civil annulment / Nullity of marriage is a legal declaration by the court which states a marriage never actually existed in the eyes of the law. It is not the same as a divorce as no legal rights are attributed to either spouse following the annulment.
CAN I APPLY FOR AN ANNULMENT?
There are two types of marriages that can be annulled – void marriages or voidable marriages and the distinction is important. A void marriage is considered never to have taken place and can be applied for in circumstances where the formal requirements for a marriage to take place were not adhered to. A voidable marriage on the other hand is considered a valid marriage until a decree of annulment is made.
WHAT ARE THE REQUIREMENTS FOR A VALID MARRIAGE?
– Non observance of formalities: The most important formality is the requirement to give 3 months notice to the Registrar of Marriages.
– Lack of Capacity:
(a) Either party is already validly married;
(b) The parties are within prohibited degrees of relationship ;
(c) Either party is under 18 years of age.
– Lack of Consent:
Some examples include
(a) Mental incapacity;
(c) fraud, mistake and misrepresentation;
(d) duress and undue influence;
(e) limited purpose marriage.
A failure to adhere to the above formalities can lead to a marriage being deemed void and ultimately an annulment can be granted.
WHAT MARRIAGES CAN BE DEEMED VOIDABLE?
Other marriages can be deemed to have existed from the start but because of a problem later on they are considered voidable. Some examples of voidable marriages arise under the following headings:-
(b) Inability to enter and sustain normal marital relationship.
An application for a decree of nullity can be made to the Circuit Court or the High Court. If both parties are in agreement that the marriage should be annulled then the application is slightly easier but a judge must still be satisfied that the grounds necessary to grant an annulment are met.
If you have further queries on this please feel free to email me at laura[at]brophysolicitors.ie or call (01) 6797930.