What is an annulment?

What is an annulment?

If you have been educating yourself about divorce you may have come across the term annulment.

In Ontario there are two types of annulments: religious and legal.

In the Catholic Church a divorce is not enough for a marriage to be recognized as terminated. This means that if you plan on getting married again in the same faith you must get an annulment.

Even if you get a religious annulment you must still get either a legal annulment or a divorce for the court to consider your marriage dissolved. Simply put, in order to completely separate from your spouse in the eyes of the court AND the Catholic Church you must get a religious annulment and a divorce/legal annulment.

If you are looking to get a religious annulment it is best to speak to your local priest. Requests for annulments usually go to a marriage tribunal where an initial evaluation is made of the possible grounds for nullity. There are several things that can be grounds for a marriage to be considered void, all based in canon law. The marriage tribunal will often use the testimony of both spouses as well as witnesses to decide whether to grant the annulment. If the applicants are successful it is like the marriage never happened in the eyes of the church.

There is also such a thing as a legal annulment. This is when the court decides that your marriage was illegitimate from the beginning and therefore null and void. It is more difficult to get a legal annulment than a divorce because you must provide ample proof to show that the marriage wasn’t valid from the start. A court may grant you a legal annulment if at the time of the marriage:

  • One spouse was already married to someone else
  • One spouse was under the age of 18 and married without parental permission
  • The marriage was entered into under duress, fear or fraud
  • One spouse lacked the mental capacity to understand the basic meaning of marriage
  • One or both spouses were intoxicated during the marriage ceremony and was not able to give consent
  • The spouses were too closely related to each other by blood or adoption
  • Non-consummation of the marriage

Many people may wish to have a marriage annulled rather than getting a divorce because it recognizes by law that the marriage was never valid. However, as you can see, the grounds for an annulment in Ontario are very specific and not very many annulments are every granted by the court. Even if you are granted a religious annulment this doesn’t mean that you will automatically be granted an annulment in the eyes of the law.

No matter which avenue you choose you will want to seek legal counsel. Even in the event that you are eligible for a legal annulment you will still need representation for division of property and custody rights purposes. Check out our directory of qualified family lawyers to find legal counsel near you.

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