How Do I Get An Annulment in B.C.?

Colin Ferguson, Vancouver Family Lawyer

We are often asked about how to obtain an annulment for a short-term marriage, however, there seems to be a common misconception that the duration of the marriage is what allows a person to obtain an annulment. An annulment is available only for legally invalid marriages, whereas a legally valid marriage requires a divorce to terminate the marriage. The majority of married people cannot obtain an annulment because there are very specific reasons which determine when one can be granted.

A marriage in British Columbia may be invalid if any of the following factors apply:

  • one spouse was already married to someone else
  • one spouse was under the age of majority 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

In order to obtain an annulment to a marriage, an application must be commenced in the British Columbia Supreme Court based on the grounds that there are existing circumstances which bring the validity of the marriage into question. Unlike a divorce, there is no process similar like a desk order divorce available to obtain an annulment. Therefore you must attend court to get an annulment. This means that it is possible that seeking an annulment instead of a divorce, may take longer and may cost more. Therefore, it may be better just to get a divorce.

However, the effect of an annulment is to make it so that the marriage never existed. If a marriage is annulled, it is unnecessary to file for a divorce as the marriage was considered invalid from the beginning. This can be important for some people, especially for specific cultural reasons.

However, you should know that even if a marriage is annulled, and it therefore never existed, a spouse is still able to make claims under the Family Law Act. The Family Law Act does not require a couple to have been married as it applies to common law couples as well. Therefore, claims can me made for child support, spousal support, and the division of family assets and debts even if you get an annulment. As stated in the Family Law Act at section 198(2):

(2)A spouse may start a proceeding for an order under Part 5 [Property Division] to divide property or family debt, Part 6 [Pension Division] to divide a pension, or Part 7 [Child and Spousal Support] for spousal support, no later than 2 years after,
 (a)in the case of spouses who were married, the date
  (i)a judgment granting a divorce of the spouses is made, or
  (ii)an order is made declaring the marriage of the spouses to be a nullity, or
 (b)in the case of spouses who were living in a marriage-like relationship, the date the spouses separated.

If you believe your marriage is invalid and require an annulment, contact the Vancouver family lawyers at Crossroads Law for a free consultation. We have assisted many clients with annulments as well as all other divorce and family law actions.