The grounds on which a marriage is voidable

The following Family practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • The grounds on which a marriage is voidable
  • Incapacity to consummate
  • Consummation
  • Incapacity
  • Refusal of medical examination or treatment
  • Wilful refusal to consummate
  • Wilful refusal
  • Lack of consent
  • Duress and forced marriages
  • Mistake
  • More...

The grounds on which a marriage is voidable

A decree of nullity granted after 31 July 1971 in respect of a voidable marriage operates to annul the marriage with effect from decree absolute and it is treated as if it had existed up to that time. There are eight grounds on which a marriage celebrated after 31 July 1971 is voidable pursuant to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973):

Incapacity to consummate

An opposite sex marriage may be voidable on the basis that it has not been consummated owing to the incapacity of either party to consummate it.

An impotent husband or wife may petition for annulment on the grounds of their own impotence unless they were aware of the impotence at the time of the marriage, or unless it is unjust in all the circumstances. In that situation the court will not force a nullity decree onto a respondent against their wishes.

A petitioner relying upon impotence should be able to prove that they have been suffering from a sense of grievance.

A same-sex spouse cannot rely on the ground of non-consummation in nullity proceedings.


Consummation has been interpreted as meaning 'ordinary and complete intercourse'. While ordinary intercourse has not been defined, it seems to require 'full and complete penetration'. The inability to conceive is not a sufficient ground for a decree of nullity if the wife is capable

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