Doubts as to the Validity of the Marriage


In order to divorce and consider all the legal consequences of your separation, you must have been validly married in the first place. If you were married in the UK and you complied with the necessary formalities, then your marriage will be valid. You will need your original marriage certificate as evidence.

If you do not have this, you can obtain a certified copy from the General Register Office:
There is a charge of £9.25 (as at June 2017).

The General Register Office cannot issue marriage certificates for marriages that took place less than 18 months ago. In those circumstances, you will have to obtain the marriage certificate from the registry office or church where the marriage was registered. You should contact the Superintendent Registrar of Marriages for the district where the marriage took place.

Contact details for the Superintendent Registrar of Marriages can usually be found on the council website for the relevant county. A small fee is payable which varies between districts.

An example:

Marriages that took place outside England are, by and large, valid under English law provided that:

  • both of you had the capacity (in terms of age, marital status and consent) to marry under the law of your domicile (or, if you are not from England, Wales or Ireland, the law of the country of which you are a national)

  • the marriage ceremony you went through followed the formalities of the law of the country in which you were married.

This is a complex area which requires specialist advice.

If you go on to issue divorce proceedings, you will need your original marriage certificate or a certified copy and you will need to provide a translation, which is certified by a notary. To find a notary:


If your marriage was void or voidable, then you can apply for a decree of nullity. This asserts that your marriage is not valid.

You can apply to the court for financial relief even though you were not validly married if your marriage is found to be void or voidable.

A marriage can be void for any of the following reasons:

  • the marriage is not valid under the provisions of the Marriage Acts 1949 to 1986: this includes the fact that the parties are within the prohibited degrees of relationship, for example either party is under the age of 16, or the parties have married in disregard of certain requirements as to the formation of marriage

  • at the time of the marriage either party was already lawfully married or a civil partner

  • the parties are not respectively male and female

  • in the case of a polygamous marriage entered into outside England and Wales, either party was at the time of the marriage domiciled in England and Wales.

  • a marriage is voidable on one or more of the following grounds:

  • the marriage has not been consummated, that is the couple have not had sex, because either party is unable to consummate it: the court has to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt, that the spouse was at the time of the marriage and has been thereafter incapable of consummating it

  • the marriage has not been consummated owing to the wilful refusal of the respondent to consummate it

  • either party did not give valid consent to the marriage, whether through duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise (which can include being under the influence of drugs)

  • at the time of the marriage, either party was suffering from a mental disorder

  • at the time of the marriage, the respondent was suffering from venereal disease in a communicable form

  • at the time of the marriage, the respondent was pregnant by someone else

  • an interim gender recognition certificate under GRA 2004 has, since the marriage, been issued to either party

  • the respondent is a transgender person whose gender at the time of the marriage had become acquired under GRA 2004.


How can you file a nullity petition if you are in a void or voidable marriage? You can download and fill in the nullity petition from the following link:

We highly recommend you take specialist advice if you think that you may be entitled to a nullity.

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