Nullity of marriage (civil nullity or civil annulment) is a legal declaration by the Court which states that although two people went through a marriage ceremony, their marriage never actually existed in the eyes of the law or the State.
There are two types of marriages that may be annulled or cancelled - void marriages and voidable marriages. A void marriage is considered to have never taken place. A voidable marriage is considered to be a valid marriage until a decree of annulment is made.
Civil annulment is not the same as divorce. Divorce is a legal declaration ending a marriage whereas civil annulment (nullity) is a legal declaration stating that the marriage never existed. If a marriage is annulled, it also means that both people lose any rights they enjoyed as a married person.
It is important to be aware of the difference between a church annulment and a civil annulment. A church annulment is not recognised by the law and therefore has no legal effect. It does not mean that you can legally remarry - although it may mean that you can remarry in the eyes of the church.
The court may grant nullity in situations where for example:
- The couple were not capable of marrying each other (that is one person was already married or one person was under the age of eighteen years and did not have court permission)
- The couple did not comply with certain formal requirements relating to the ceremony (that is failure to give adequate notice to the Registrar of Marriages)
- One party did not give a full, free and informed consent to the marriage
- One of the parties is unable to perform the complete sexual act with the other party
- There is an inability to form and sustain a normal marital relationship (that is one party may be suffering with a psychiatric illness or personality disorder, unknown to the other person at the time of the marriage)
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