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What is a Void Marriage?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A void marriage is a marriage which was not legal from the start, and was therefore never recognized in the eyes of the law. Partners in a void marriage who wish to separate do not need to take any special steps to do so because, legally, they are not married. Likewise, in a void marriage there may be disputes over property rights and other issues, because the partners are not married and thus rights which would be automatically extended are not available.

Several things can cause a marriage to be void. One is a law which forbids marriages of that form; for example, some nations ban same-sex marriage. Some countries have bans on marriages in which the partners are closely related. If, for example, a brother and sister marry, they may have a void marriage. Likewise, bigamy is not allowed under law in some regions. In situations where someone is married to someone else and fails to dissolve the marriage properly before remarrying, the second marriage will be a void marriage because it is considered bigamous.

One thing to be aware of with a void marriage is that certain rights extended to married couples will not be available. This can become especially problematic when one partner dies. It may be possible for the partner's will to be challenged on the basis of the argument that the couple was not married.

A void marriage is not the same thing as a voidable marriage. Voidable marriages are marriages which the law accepts as legal unless they are challenged, in which case the marriage can be annulled. Some examples include marriages in which one or both parties are underage and marriages in which one partner is impotent. Marriages in which one partner behaved fraudulently to enter the partnership, marriages in which coercion or force was used to enter into the marriage contract, and marriages in which one partner lacked the capacity for consent may also be voidable.

In a voidable marriage, someone can challenge the marriage, and the court may rule it void and allow the partners to separate. However, if the partners live together after the circumstances which make the marriage voidable are revealed or they take other steps to legalize the marriage, such as obtaining parental consent for an underage marriage, the marriage is no longer voidable. In these situations, divorce proceedings must be pursued in order to legally separate.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Animandel — On Sep 04, 2014

I thought annulments could only be given when the marriage was for a short time, like a few weeks or months, but I recently learned that the length of the marriage has nothing to do with getting an annulment.

One of the good things about an annulment is you don't have to worry about alimony and legal 50-50 splits of money and property. Of course, if you'e the one who would be getting the alimony this could also be a bad thing.

By Sporkasia — On Sep 03, 2014

@Laotionne - One of the primary reasons a person might seek an annulment such as a Catholic annulment is so he can remain in good standing with his church. Some religions do not recognize divorce, and once you are married you are always married in the eyes of the church.

This can mean that a person who gets a legal divorce is no longer allowed to take part in some church activities, and in some religions the person may even be asked to leave the church. So you can see why a person might want to avoid a divorce and obtain an annulment instead.

Having a marriage end, and then being shunned by your religion at a time when you need the extra moral and spiritual support can be overwhelming.

By Laotionne — On Sep 02, 2014

A friend and I were talking about annulments a few days a go. Neither of us really knows why in some cases people want annulments so badly instead of simply getting a divorce. If you were married then you were married, and whether you have an annulment or a divorce what happened doesn't change. I know there is a reason, but I don't understand the big difference.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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