Relevant court forms
What is nullity?
Nullity of marriage (civil nullity or civil annulment) is a legal declaration by the court which states that although two people went through a marriage ceremony, their marriage never actually existed in the eyes of the law or the State. There are two types of marriages that may be annulled or cancelled - void marriages and voidable marriages. A void marriage is considered to have never taken place. A voidable marriage is considered to be a valid marriage until a decree of anulment is made.
Civil annulment is not the same as divorce. Divorce is a legal declaration ending a marriage whereas civil annulment (nullity) is a legal declaration stating that the marriage never existed. If a marriage is annulled, it also means that both people lose any rights they enjoyed as a married person.
It is important to be aware of the difference between a church annulment and a civil annulment. A church annulment is not recognised by the law and therefore has no legal effect. It does not mean that you can legally remarry - although it may mean that you can remarry in the eyes of the church.
The court may grant nullity in situations where for example:
- The couple were not capable of marrying each other (that is one person was already married or one person was under the age of eighteen years and did not have court permission)
- The couple did not comply with certain formal requirements relating to the ceremony (that is failure to give adequate notice to the Registrar of Marriages)
- One party did not give a full, free and informed consent to the marriage
- One of the parties is unable to perform the complete sexual act with the other party
- There is an inability to form and sustain a normal marital relationship (that is one party may be suffering with a psychiatric illness or personality disorder, unknown to the other person at the time of the marriage).
Nullity of civil partnership is a legal declaration by a court that although two people went through a civil partnership ceremony, their civil partnership is null and void, and that no valid civil partnership exists. In nullity of civil partnerships, there are only void civil partnerships.
Nullity (or anulment) of a civil partnership is not the same as dissolution. Dissolution is a declaration ending a valid civil partnership.
The court may grant nullity of a civil partnership in situations where for example:
- The couple were not capable of becoming the civil partner of the other (that is either or both parties was already married or already registered in a relationship with another person which was entitled to be recognised as a civil partnership in the State, or one person was under the age of eighteen years)
- The couple did not comply with the formalities of registering a civil partnership (that is failure to give adequate notice to the Registrar of Marriages)
- One party did not give full, free and informed consent to the civil partnership
- The parties were not of the same sex.
Some legal effects of a civil annulment of a marriage or a civil partnership:
The couple are free to legally marry or register a civil partnership
Neither person can claim maintenance from the other although child support may still be claimed
Neither person can claim against the property of the other. Therefore, if one partner was the legal owner of the home, he or she can sell or lease it without the others consent
Nullity does not affect the rights of the dependent children and does not affect the children's succession rights to the estate of their deceased parent(s)
Because the annulled marriage/civil partnership never legally existed, there are no succession rights for either former partner when the other dies.
Making an application to annul a marriage/civil partnership
Applications can be made to the Circuit Court or the High Court. The law in relation to nullity is complex. It may be necessary to get legal advise to establish whether the circumstances for nullity exist.
S.I. No. 510 of 2001, Circuit Court Rules, 2001
- Form 2N: Family Law Civil Bill (for nullity of marriage)
- Form 2S: Civil Partnership Civil Bill (for nullity of civil partnership)
S.I. No. 358 of 2008, Circuit Court Rules (Case Progression in Family Law Proceedings),2008:
- Form 37L: Summons to attend case progression hearing
- Form 37N: Case progression questionnaire
- S.I. No. 510 of 2001:Circuit Court Rules, 2001 - Order 59
- S.I. No. 312 of 2007: Circuit Court Rules (General), 2007
- S.I. No. 358 of 2008:Circuit Court Rules (Case Progression in Family Law Proceedings), 2008
- S.I. No. 15 of 1986: Superior Court Rules
Page updated: 15 January 2019