Marriages can result in divorce. In some cases, they can also be annulled, which means the marriage is considered invalid. Just like divorces and separations, annulments of marriages also need to be done legally, and there is a process in place. In Australia, annulment of a marriage falls under Section 51 of the Family Law Act 1975. Read on to learn more about the details of annulment and the associated processes.


How is Annulment Different from Divorce?

Annulment is not divorce and, hence, cannot be treated like one either. In fact, the annulment of a marriage is not like any form of separation. It is proving that the very marriage is null and void. While a divorce legally marks the dissolution of a marriage, an annulment does not recognise the marriage at all in the first place.

An annulment is referred to, in legal terms, as a Decree of Nullity. Irrespective of whether the wedding was conducted with all the associated ceremonies or not, a marriage can be considered invalid if a valid proof for the same is submitted. Let us probe further and learn more about annulments.


Grounds for a Marriage Annulment

A marriage can be annulled on several grounds, some of which may also be counted as criminal offences.



If either or both parties are already in a legal marriage with other people at the time of getting married, it accounts for bigamy, a criminal offence in Australia. The marriage is therefore found to be invalid and, hence, can be annulled.


Consanguine Marriage

Marriage between closely related, especially blood-related, people is prohibited and, hence, provides a valid ground for annulment. Marriage between siblings (or half-siblings), with an ancestor, or a descendant, and such close relations are voidable.


Incomplete or Bogus Ceremonies

If it is proved that the wedding ceremonies were not carried out according to the stipulations in the Marriage Act, the marriage can be annulled.


Lack of Consent

If it is proved that either or both of the parties did not consent to the marriage and that they were forced or conned into it, or if there was any case of mistaken identity or mental incapability, it is considered a lack of consent from either or both parties, as the case may be, and thus provides grounds for annulment of the marriage.


Below the Marriageable Age

If either or both parties are below the legal age of marriage, the marriage is considered invalid and can be annulled.


What Does Not Qualify as Grounds for Annulment?

There are certain situations that, although not indicative of a happy marriage, will not be valid grounds for annulment. Situations like marriage not being consummated, parties not living together, domestic violence, or any kind of incompatibility are not grounds for annulment. Seek a lawyer’s advice to know if your situation qualifies as possible grounds for annulment or not.


Annulment Applications

The first step to applying for an annulment is to file for a Decree of Nullity. An Initiating Application Form needs to be filled out, and three copies of this form must be submitted along with the Marriage Certificate. Along with them, an affidavit that contains all the details about the ceremony and the reason for the annulment needs to be submitted. The initial filing of the application involves a certain fee, which may be discounted if the applicant is in adverse financial circumstances.


Once the application is filed, the papers must be personally served to the respondent by someone other than the applicant. The papers would include the court pamphlet, an Acknowledgement of Service, and an Affidavit of Service. In case the recipient refuses to accept the annulment application, they must contest it by filing a Response to Initiating Application along with an affidavit supporting their non-acceptance. Before applying for an annulment, get in touch with a lawyer with relevant experience to guide you through the application process.


What Happens After Annulment (Legal Consequences)?

The legal grounds for annulment of a marriage, when presented with proof, come with consequences. As already stated, most of these situations may amount to criminal offences and can result in charges being filed. For example, bigamy is a crime as per Section 94 of the Marriage Act 1961 and can incarcerate a person for up to five years. However, if the spouse of the defendant is presumed dead or has been missing for more than seven years, one may justify the act of marrying someone while still being married to another.


Similarly, forcing a person into marrying someone is considered a criminal offence under Section 270.7A of the Criminal Code Act 1995. If someone is found to have married another person by coercion, they may be punished with seven-year imprisonment or a nine-year aggravated offence if the victim is under 18 years of age. Every reason for annulment may be a crime, and if proved in court, it may also lead to incarceration and other forms of punishment.


Annulment by the Catholic Church

In Australia, an annulment of a marriage needs to be done legally, and any Church-granted annulment is not recognised by the law. Some people seek Church-granted annulments because they wish to marry again in the Church. As per the rules laid down by the Catholic Church, a divorced person cannot marry again as long as the first spouse is alive. Likewise, a single person cannot marry a divorced person either. If a divorced person needs to remarry in a Catholic Church, it can be done only after getting the marriage annulled by the Tribunal. So even if you have been granted an annulment by the Church, you need to follow all the procedures to get your marriage annulled legally, and vice versa.


Speak to an Experienced Family Lawyer about Marriage Annulment in Australia

As is the case with every legal issue, it is advisable and highly recommended that you seek direct guidance and consultation from a legal expert. A lawyer with substantial experience in family law, especially in annulment of marriage, can guide you thoroughly. A lawyer can understand your case and build on it to make it stronger. A family lawyer can help you with the legal process, including the procedures and paperwork. Adequate representation and thorough assistance will make things easier for you when navigating the legal process.


At Maatouks Law Group, we have experienced family lawyers who can help you with all issues related to marriage and family. While we specialise in divorces and separations, we also offer ample consultation on matters related to annulments of marriage. We have a friendly team that can guide you in collecting and collating the evidence that will help prove your marriage null and void. We can also help with getting the right paperwork done and filing the application. Furthermore, we can also serve the papers to the other party on your behalf.


For more information, book a consultation with us today!