Void and voidable marriages

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

  • Void and voidable marriages
  • Void marriages
  • Voidable marriages
  • Effect of a decree of nullity
  • Financial orders
  • Children
  • Wills

Void and voidable marriages

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 (MCA 1973) sets out the grounds on which a marriage is void or voidable and the bars preventing the grant of a decree of nullity. Proceedings for nullity are relatively rare but may be appropriate including in cases where clients have strong religious and or cultural reasons for not wishing to divorce.

In cases relying on non-consummation through incapacity or wilful refusal, clients should also be made aware that the court will consider whether a medical inspection is required.

Where proceedings are based on the ground that the respondent was, at the time of the marriage, suffering from mental disorder within the meaning of the Mental Health Act 1983 (MeHA 1983) of such a kind or to such an extent as to be unfitted for marriage, the petitioner must not take any steps in the proceedings except filing an application form until the protected party has a litigation friend.

In relation to marriages celebrated before 1 August 1971 it is necessary to have a look at the former law. This Practice Note is concerned only with annulment of marriages that took place after 31 July 1971.

Void marriages

A void marriage is one that will be treated by the courts as never having taken place, ie void from the outset.

It is not necessary to obtain a decree annulling a void marriage,

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