Consequences of a civil annulment of marriage
Whether or not your marriage is void or voidable, the legal consequences of a civil annulment of your marriage are the same. Your marriage is declared to be invalid from the start. Therefore, your marriage never legally happened.
The most obvious consequence of a court declaration of nullity is that you are now entitled to marry. If you do get married after a civil annulment, you are not committing bigamy, as your new marriage is your only valid one.
If you have already remarried, that is, you have married before an order of annulment was actually made by the court, your second marriage may have appeared invalid and bigamous. However, once the annulment order is granted, your second marriage is validated, as your first marriage has now been declared invalid.
If your marriage is annulled, it also means that you lose the rights that you enjoyed as a married person. Therefore:
- The home that you shared with your former partner is not a family home. If your former partner is the legal owner of the house, they can sell or lease it without your consent.
- Under the Succession Act 1965, when a married person dies, their spouse is legally entitled to a share of their estate whether or not they have left a will. As your marriage never happened, you do not have any succession rights if your former partner dies.
- Once your marriage has been annulled, you do not have a right to apply to the court to order your former partner to pay maintenance to support you, as only spouses may apply to a court for an order for maintenance. However, if there were children born during the annulled marriage, you may apply to the court to order your former partner to pay child support.
- If your marriage is annulled, it will also have consequences for your children. However, the Status of Children Act 1987 protects the legal rights of children whose parents are not married to each other. Under the Succession Act 1965, if you die and do not provide for your child adequately in your will, that child may apply to the court for a share of your estate. If you die without a will, your children have an automatic right to a share in your estate. These rights apply equally to children born outside of marriage and children born within marriage, so an annulment of your marriage will not affect your children's succession rights.
- The right of a father to be a guardian of his child is affected by an annulment of marriage. Normally, when a child is born to married parents, both parents are the joint guardians of the child. When a marriage is annulled, the father will only be regarded as a joint guardian of the child if he reasonably believed that his marriage ceremony was valid, and if the child was born before the annulment order, or less than 10 months after it.
It is important to be aware that a church annulment does not have any legal effect. It does not mean that you may legally remarry - although it may mean that you can remarry in the eyes of the church.