Marriage annulment

Marriage annulment

Annulment happens when a judge decides that there was no legal marriage. If a judge grants an annulment, the marriage is void.

Marriage is something that you need to agree to without being tricked, pressured or forced to marry. You can apply to court to have your marriage annulled if:

  • you were tricked or forced to marry someone
  • one of the parties to the marriage was under 18
  • you were not able to understand what the marriage ceremony was
  • the person you married was already married to someone else
  • the person you married is a close relative (parent, grandparent, child or sibling).

Forced marriage

It is a criminal offence to force someone to get married if they do not want to. The penalty could be up to seven years jail.

This law also applies to relatives and marriage celebrants. It is still an offence even if the marriage happens overseas.

If someone is forced into marriage they can apply to court for an annulment.

How to apply for an annulment

To apply for an annulment you or the other party must fit one of the following:

  • be an Australian citizen
  • live in Australia and regard Australia as your permanent home
  • ordinarily live in Australia and have done so for at least 12 months before the annulment application.

Applications for having your marriage annulled have to be made in the Family Court.

You will need to pay a filing fee. You may be entitled to a reduced fee or refund.

The procedure

You must arrange for the other person to be ‘served’ with the application for a marriage annulment. Serving or ‘service’ is giving your ex-partner the paperwork so they know about the court proceedings.

You cannot personally serve your former partner but you can serve them by mail or get someone else to serve the documents for you. The family law courts have special rules about the service of documents and forms to prove that the other person was served.

The other party may file and serve an affidavit in response to your application. In this document they will say what they disagree with in your application. They have 28 days to do this. If they do not file a response, the court will hear the matter without them as long as they are satisfied that the other party was properly served with your application.

At the hearing the judge will make a decision based on the evidence. If they find that the grounds for an annulment are met, they will grant an annulment order.

Remarrying

You cannot remarry until your annulment order becomes final.

Be careful not to set your wedding date too close to the expected date of your annulment order becoming final. If there is a delay, you will not be able to go ahead with your wedding until the problem is sorted out and the annulment is granted.

Property settlement and children’s arrangements

Getting the marriage annulled does not sort out issues relating to children or property.

Division of property must be done within 12 months of the date of the annulment.

If you cannot resolve your property issues and need a court to decide, you must file a separate application to your annulment within 12 months of the date of the annulment. Otherwise, you will need to ask the court for permission to apply. See Dividing your property.

If you can’t agree on arrangements for children, you can try to sort out your issues using family dispute resolution. If you cannot reach an agreement then you may need to go to court. See Parenting arrangements and child contact.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with separation, divorce and marriage annulment.