An annulment is a formal court order which ends your otherwise-valid marriage. It alleviates the need to obtain a divorce, since the law voids your marriage entirely and treats it as if it never happened.
But your divorce can only be annulled if your marriage was “flawed” in some way. Specifically, as two spouses, you can get an annulment if at the time of your marriage one of you:
- Was already married to someone else;
- Was under the age of 18 years old and did not have his or her parent’s consent;
- Lacked the mental capacity to understand what a marriage is;
- Was unable to consummate the marriage (meaning he or she was physically unable to consummate, not that he or she was unwilling to do so); or
- Was unaware that he or she was participating in a real marriage ceremony.
An annulment can also be obtained if the spouses are too closely related to each other, based on specified family relationships (e.g. a marriage between a brother and a sister).
Note a few important points:
- Meeting the threshold for getting an annulment is relatively hard to do. Simply having “second thoughts” or realizing you made a mistake in getting married is not sufficient to get an annulment.
- Neither is a revelation by one spouse that he or she is gay or lesbian, or a post-wedding realization that one spouse was getting married only for immigration purposes (i.e. so that he or she could remain in Canada), or had significant undisclosed debts or a gambling addiction;
- A legal annulment is not the same as a religious one, which are not recognized by Canadian courts or the government; and
- Even if a marriage is annulled, this does not foreclose the rights of spouses to make Family Law claims against each other, for example relating to property division, support or parenting.