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Region: Ontario Answer # 102

An annulment is a declaration by the court that two spouses were never legally married and allows some spouses to end a marriage without a divorce. Although many people would prefer to have their marriage annulled rather than to get divorced, the grounds for an annulment are very specific and very few marriages are annulled in Ontario. Even if you do seek and obtain an annulment, you should be aware that there may still be obligations for support and division of property under the Family Law Act. 

Grounds for annulment

A marriage can be annulled for a number of reasons, which usually relate to a legal defect in the marriage ceremony or a disability of one of the spouses.

Capacity issues

For example, spouses can seek an annulment for one of the following capacity issues, if, at the time of the marriage:

  • one spouse was already married to someone else
  • one spouse was under the age of 18 and married without parental permission
  • the marriage was entered into under duress, fear, or fraud
  • one spouse lacked the mental capacity to understand the basic meaning of marriage
  • one or both spouses was intoxicated during the marriage ceremony and was not able to give consent
  • the spouses were too closely related to each other by blood or adoption

Non-consummation of the marriage

A marriage can also be annulled if one spouse was unable to, or refused to, consummate the marriage. Consummation means the spouses must have had sexual intercourse with each other, at least once, after being married. Non-consummation of a marriage is the most common ground for annulment in Ontario. If, before the marriage, one spouse knew that the other never intended to have intercourse, or entered into the marriage on a strictly platonic basis, then the ground of non-consummation will not apply. Also, simply not having had time or the opportunity to consummate the marriage is not grounds for an annulment.

Not grounds for annulment

Religious annulments and marriages of convenience are not grounds for annulment. Although an annulment that is granted by a religious process may be recognized by that religious body, it is not valid under Ontario law. Also, the law does not take into account the parties’ motives for entering into the marriage when determining if it qualifies for an annulment. Therefore, marriages of convenience, such as for immigration purposes, cannot be annulled on that ground.

Although there is no time limitation on when spouses can obtain an annulment, annulments are generally used to end marriages that lasted for a very short period of time.

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Getting the legal help you need

If you are considering hiring a lawyer to represent you, for legal advice and assistance with having your marriage annulled, and for other family law matters, contact Djonin Law Office .

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