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Marriage annulment and divorce: what is the difference?

There are two ways to bring a marriage to a legal end: marriage annulment and divorce.

If your relationship has broken down, you may be wondering whether marriage annulment or divorce is the right option for you. In this article, we will discuss the key differences between marriage annulment and divorce, as well as the next steps to take if you want to officially end your marriage.


What’s marriage annulment?

Marriage annulment is one way of ending a marriage.

When you annul a marriage, you are saying that the marriage is either not legally valid – ‘void’ – or ‘voidable’.

This is the key difference between marriage annulment and divorce. Annulling a marriage is effectively ‘cancelling’ the marriage, whereas divorce is legally bringing the marriage to an end.

Marriage annulment


How does marriage annulment work?

In order to get a marriage annulment, your marriage will need to be:

• ‘Void’ or
• ‘Voidable’

A marriage can be said to be ‘void’ – or not legally valid – for a number of reasons.

For example, if you or your partner were under 16 when you were married, your marriage would not be legally valid. This would also be the case if either of you were already married or in a civil partnership when your marriage took place.

In the eyes of the law, a ‘void’ marriage never existed in the first place. This is very different to divorce, which legally ends a marriage, rather than saying it never existed.

Marriages can be ‘voidable’ (and therefore annulled) for various different reasons. One of the most well-known reasons is that the marriage was not consummated i.e. the couple have not had sexual intercourse since the marriage took place. This cannot be used for same-sex couples.

A marriage may also be ‘voidable’ if one party had a sexually transmitted disease when the wedding took place.

Marriage annulment when a marriage is ‘voidable’ is similar to divorce, in that your marriage will exist legally until you annul it.

A solicitor should be able to advise you if your marriage is either ‘void’ or ‘voidable’ and can therefore be annulled.


How to get marriage annulment

Marriage annulment should be carried out by completing a document known as a ‘nullity petition’ and then sending 2 copies to your nearest divorce court. At the time of writing, this costs £550.


How is marriage annulment different to divorce?

Unlike divorce, you do not need to have been married for a year in order to have your marriage annulled.

In order to get a divorce, you will need to show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. This is not necessary when it comes to a marriage annulment. You will just need to provide a reason why your marriage is either ‘void’ or ‘voidable’.

Whether you want a marriage annulment or divorce, it is highly recommended that you seek advice from a solicitor. Not only will they be able to help you choose between marriage annulment and divorce, they will also ensure that there are no unnecessary delays caused by mistakes on the forms.


Other articles that may be of interest to you?

How long does a divorce take?

What is the divorce process?

How to annul a marriage?


How can our expert divorce solicitors help advice you how to annul a marriage?

Our expert divorce solicitors can help you on how to annul a marriage and advise on a range of legal issues:


Contact our expert divorce solicitors for marriage annulment advice

For more information call our divorce solicitors on 0845 862 5001 or email


Our expert divorce solicitors offer a nationwide service. We have client meeting office facilities available, in order to have face-to-face client meetings / conferences as and when required in our:

Leeds Office: Princes Exchange, Princes Square, Leeds, LS1 4BY

Sheffield Office: Pinfold Street, The Balance, Sheffield, S1 2GU

Manchester Office: King Street, Manchester, M2 4PD

Wakefield Office: Market Walk, Wakefield, WF1 1QR

Canary Wharf Office: 25 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5LB

London Office: 01 Nothumberland Avenue, Trafalgar Square, London, WC2N 5BW

Please contact us for more details.

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07th January 2020

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