Although both a marriage annulment and a divorce end in the same result, the dissolution of a marriage, the method of doing so is quite different.
What is a Marriage Annulment?
While a divorce is the legal dissolution of a marriage, an annulment is as if the marriage never actually happened.
it is important to know that marriage annulments are extremely difficult to get in a Canadian court of law. They are generally only used to end a marriage that was never legally valid in the first place, making it null and void. This means that there is only a small set of circumstances that your family lawyer can use to initiate a marriage annulment.
Can I Get an Annulment?
An annulment might seem like an attractive way to end a marriage, since the marriage would be legally erased as if it never happened. However, the reality is that getting an annulment can be a very long, expensive, and difficult process that is not guaranteed to end successfully. Unlike with a divorce, a marriage annulment requires you to make an appearance in court, which can extend the timeframe of ending your marriage up to a year or more.
When we are approached by couples looking for an annulment, their marriages often do not meet the legal requirements. For example, a couple might wish to annul their marriage because one of them is unable to have children. Or there is a sexual incompatibility in the relationship. Or someone committed adultery. Unfortunately, these circumstances are not applicable for an annulment, although they can be appropriate grounds for a divorce.
If you wish to end your marriage, a divorce is almost always the best option. If your marriage meets any of the potential grounds below, you might be able to get a marriage annulment and you should contact a family lawyer for a proper consultation:
Potential Grounds for Annulments
If There is an Inability to Consummate the Marriage
- If the parties cannot consummate their marriage because of physical or psychological issues that weren’t previously disclosed, an annulment is an option.
If Either Party was Intoxicated
- If either party was intoxicated or was otherwise mentally compromised, that means that they were not able to give consent to the marriage, and therefore, the marriage can be annulled.
If Either Party Was Underage
- In Canada, a person needs to be over 18 years of age to be legally married without parental consent.
If There is a Pre-Existing Marriage
- You can only legally be married to one person at a time in Canada. If either of the parties getting married are in an already legally valid marriage, the second marriage is void.
If There was a Threat of Physical Violence
- A “shotgun” wedding is when one of the parties is threatened with violence if they don’t agree to marriage. Marriages are not valid if one of the parties is under this kind of duress.
If the Parties Are Too Closely Related (Brother & Sister)
- In Canada, siblings, or half-siblings, cannot be married. If two parties are unaware that they are siblings at the time of the marriage, but later become aware, this is grounds for annulment.
If There Is a Lack of Mental Capacity
- If one of the parties lacks the mental capacity to understand the legal nature of marriage, they lack the ability to consent, and therefore the marriage can be annulled.
What Happens to Child Support and Custody if There is an Annulment?
Even if the marriage is annulled, all child support and child custody laws still apply to any children who were a result of the marriage. Annulling your marriage rather than having a divorce will in no way impact to the level of child support that will need to be paid.
Religious Marriage Annulments
One major factor why many couples seek a marriage annulment is for religious reasons. Although an annulment under Canadian law might not be possible, many religions do offer a religious marriage annulment, allowing the parties to remarry within their faith. If combined with a civil divorce, this can be a positive outcome for some couples.
If you’re seeking a marriage annulment, and your marriage meets the criteria, Baidwan & Baidwan Lawyers LLP would be happy to help. Baidwan & Baidwan is a full-service law firm that specializes in family, criminal, and real estate law. If you need a family lawyer in Brampton, ON, call Baidwan & Baidwan for an initial consultation.