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Marriage Annulment 101

Marriage Annulment 101

Last week we wrote about whether a scam immigration can be annulled under Canadian divorce law. This provides a good springboard for exploring some basic legal facts pertaining to the concept of an annulment, that many people may not be aware of.

Question:  What is an annulment?

Answer:  An annulment is simply a formal court order that brings an end to a marriage on one of several possible grounds or bases.

From a legal and conceptual standpoint, an order for an annulment renders the marriage void, both retrospectively and prospectively.

Question:  What qualifies a marriage to be annulled in the first place?

Answer:  A marriage can be annulled if it is “defective” in one of several ways.  Specifically, an annulment is available if at least one of the two spouses:

  • Had no legal capacity to marry (due to mental incapacity, intoxication, duress, fraud, etc.);
  • Was under 18 and had no parental consent to marry;
  • Was already married to another person at the time;
  • Was physically unable to consummate the marriage;
  • Was unaware that he or she was participating in a ceremony that results in a real marriage; or
  • Was too-closely related to the other spouse by blood or adoption, as prohibited by law.

Question:  Is a legal annulment the same as a religious one?

Answer:  No.  A legal or judicial annulment is granted by a Canadian court, and pertains to the civil marriage ceremony undergone by the couple.

A religious annulment, on the other hand, involves the rituals or ceremony prescribed by an organized religious; it impacts the religious ceremony that is recognized by the particular faith to which the couple adhere.

Question: Does an annulment eliminate the need for a divorce? 

Answer:  Yes.  If a marriage is formally annulled by a court, then in the eyes of the law it is essentially treated as if it never happened.  This means that a divorce becomes unnecessary.

At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders.  For more information, visit us at

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