Nullity of civil partnership
Nullity of civil partnership is a declaration by a court that your supposed civil partnership is null and void, and that no valid civil partnership exists between you and your partner. In other words, it is a declaration that the supposed civil partnership never happened.
Nullity (or annulment) is not the same as dissolution. Dissolution is a declaration ending a valid civil partnership. Nullity is a declaration that a valid civil partnership never existed.
In nullity of marriage law, there are two types of marriages that may be annulled or cancelled. There are void marriages and there are voidable marriages. If your marriage is void, it is regarded as never having taken place. If your marriage is voidable, it is considered to be a valid marriage until a decree of annulment is made.
In nullity of civil partnership law, there are only void civil partnerships. This means the civil partnerships are regarded as never having taken place.
Technically, if your civil partnership never took place, then there is no need to go to court to obtain a decree of annulment - you may simply act as though the civil partnership never happened. However, it is advisable to obtain a court order declaring that your civil partnership is annulled in order to remove any doubt.
A decree of annulment can only be made if one of the parties to the civil partnership applies to the court for a decree of nullity. Any person whom the court believes has sufficient standing to do so may also apply. If the court decides that your civil partnership is void, it will then declare that your civil partnership never existed.
You can find out about the implications of a decree of nullity in our document on the consequences of an annulment of a civil partnership.
To prove to the court that your civil partnership is void you must show one of the following grounds:
- At the time of the registration of the civil partnership there was a lack
of capacity. In other words, you or your parner was incapable of entering
into a binding contract. This may happen:
- where one of you was already validly married or in a civil partnership or
- where you were too closely related to each other or
- where you were of opposite biological sex or
- where one of you was under 18 years of age.
- The formal requirements for the registration of a civil partnership were not followed. For example, you did not give due notice to the civil registrar.
- At the time of the registration of the civil partnership, there was a lack of consent. In other words, you or your partner did not give free and fully informed consent to the civil partnership. This may be due to duress, (i.e., you were forced into the civil partnership), mistake, misrepresentation or fraud. It may also be due to the fact that you or your partner was suffering from a mental illness at that time.
How to apply
Legal advice and representation is always advisable. You and your partner should not use the same solicitor.
FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres) is an independent, voluntary organisation that operates a network of legal advice clinics throughout the country. These clinics are confidential, free of charge and open to all. Contact your nearest Citizens Information Centre for information on FLAC services in your area. FLAC also runs an information and referral line during office hours for basic legal information.
If you choose to hire a private solicitor, you should be aware that there is no fixed rate of charges for legal fees. You are advised to obtain some quotes before deciding on a legal firm. Contact information for solicitors firms throughout Ireland is available on the Law Society website.