Void marriages or civil partnerships include marriages where the parties are too closely related; where either party was already married; or where either party was under 16 at the time.
Voidable marriages and civil partnerships include marriages where:
- There was lack of consent to the marriage (whether by mistake, duress, or lack of capacity)
- The marriage has not been consummated (although this does not apply to same-sex marriage)
- The other party was suffering from a mental disorder or a communicable venereal disease
- The other party is pregnant by another person at the time of the marriage.
It is important to note that strict time limits apply in respect of some of the grounds for voidable marriages. Proceedings based on certain grounds (e.g. mental disorder and venereal disease) must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the marriage, unless permission is granted by the court.
Nullity proceedings can be commenced without having to wait one year from the date of marriage or civil partnership, as is required before starting divorce proceedings.
There are also certain situations where there is no marriage at all. These are sometimes referred to as ‘non-marriages’ or ‘non-qualifying ceremonies’.
It is vital to note that such ceremonies will not give rise to the possibility of financial claims in the Family Court, as there is essentially no marriage or ceremony that is capable in any way of giving rise to even a void or voidable marriage (as explained above).
The distinction between a ‘non-marriage’ and a void marriage can be very technical.
With this in mind, it is advised that you seek the expertise of a family law specialist.