How to Annul a Marriage

You can get an annulment of marriage by making a petition to the Circuit Court or the High Court. You must show that your marriage is invalid.

A civil annulment from the court is not the same as a church annulment, the latter of which does not have any legal effect.

Who can annul a marriage?

To annul a marriage, you must prove that your marriage was either ‘void’ or ‘voidable’. The difference between the two is that a void marriage never technically took place – usually because it did not meet the necessary legal requirements. A voidable marriage, on the other hand, is deemed valid until the moment a Decree of Nullity is issued.

A marriage is void if:

  • One person was already legally married or in a civil partnership
  • Either person was under the age of 18 and judicial exemption has not been granted
  • You are too closely related to each other
  • One person (or both people) did not consent to the marriage – this can happen due to a forced marriage, a lack of mental capacity, intoxication or fraud
  • The formal requirements for a marriage were not met – for example, three months’ notice was not given to the Registrar of Marriages
  • You are of the same sex and the ceremony took place before 16 November 2015

A marriage is voidable if, at the time of the ceremony:

  • Either person is incapable of sexual intercourse and so cannot consummate the marriage (this is different to a refusal to consummate the marriage or being infertile)
  • Either person is incapable of entering into and sustaining a marriage, perhaps due to a psychiatric illness or because of their sexual orientation

How to annul a marriage

If your marriage is voidable, you must make an application to either the High Court or the Circuit Court. This is known as a petition. In it, you must provide proof that your marriage is voidable. You may need to rely on professional evidence, such as medical evidence, to verify your claim.

If your marriage is void, you do not theoretically need to get a Decree of Nullity, as your marriage never actually took place. However, it is recommended that you go through the court process to remove any doubt.

We advise enlisting the services of our family solicitors when applying for a Decree of Nullity. The burden of proof is on you. If you fail to provide sufficient evidence, the court may reject your application.

Church annulments vs civil annulments

In Ireland, it is also possible to get a church annulment. This is granted by an ecclesiastical tribunal. However, church annulments do not have any legal effect. This means that you may be able to remarry in the eyes of the church. But according to the law, the husband or wife in your ‘annulled’ marriage continues to be your spouse. He or she therefore retains all the rights enjoyed by spouses, including the right to a share of your estate when you die.

If you wish to declare your marriage null and void, you must get a civil annulment – meaning you must make a petition to the courts. Only once a Decree of Nullity is granted is your marriage considered to have never happened.

An annulment is also difference to a divorce. An annulment means that your marriage never existed. A divorce is when you legally terminate an existing and valid marriage.

Consequences of an annulment

Once a Decree of Nullity is issued by the courts, it means that your marriage never took place. This has a number of consequences. Firstly, you are entitled to marry another person. However, you also lose your right to:

  • Apply for spousal maintenance
  • Keep share of the family home (unless you are a legal co-owner)
  • A share of your former partner’s estate when he/she dies
  • Be named as your child’s guardian, although this only applies to fathers in certain circumstances

Speak to a family solicitor

If you want to know more about annulling your marriage in Ireland, please contact us at Mullins & Treacy LLP Solicitors. We can advise you on the grounds for annulment. If you meet the criteria, we can make the making the application on your behalf, explaining any adverse consequences that you may not have considered. We are client focused and results driven.

Call us on 051 391 488 or email for a no obligation enquiry.

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