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Annulments

If your marriage isn’t considered valid by law, you can apply for a ‘decree of nullity’—also known as an annulment. You should get legal advice.

For religious annulments contact your church or religious institution. 

What is an annulment?

A marriage is declared to be annulled when the law doesn’t recognise it as legally valid.

This is different to religious procedures for annulment. Contact your church or religious institution for more information about church granted annulments.

Defacto and same-sex relationships have different legal requirements. You should get legal advice.

To officially end a marriage you can apply for a divorce.

Is my marriage valid?

A marriage isn’t considered legally valid if:

  • either person was married at the time of the marriage (bigamy)
  • the relationship between the people prohibits marriage (eg brother, sister, parent, grandparent, child or grandchild, including half relations but not step relations)
  • either person isn’t old enough to marry (18 years unless you have a court order)
  • the ceremony wasn’t valid (eg unqualified celebrant or incorrect paperwork)
  • either person didn’t give their real consent—for example:
    • they weren’t mentally capable of giving consent
    • they were mistaken (eg as to the identity of the other person or the ceremony’s nature)
    • there was duress or fraud—such as misrepresenting who you are or using threats or force to get consent.

Applying for an annulment

To apply for an annulment, you’ll need to make an application to the Family Court of Australia explaining why the marriage isn’t legally valid. If approved, the court will issue a decree of nullity.

Fees and costs

There will be a court filing fee, but you may apply to the Family Court of Australia to have this reduced in certain situations. Contact the Family Court of Australia for more information about fees. You should discuss any legal costs with a lawyer. Applying for a decree of nullity can be complicated and expensive and you should get legal advice.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you think your marriage isn’t considered legally valid and you want to apply to the Family Court of Australia for an annulment.

Get legal advice

We may be able to give legal advice about whether your marriage is legally valid—but we can’t help with religious procedures for annulment. Contact your church or religious institution for more information.

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

Community legal centres — give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to find out if they can help with your matter.

Queensland Law Society— can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These organisations may be able to help. They don’t provide legal advice.

Family Relationship Advice Line — gives information about the family law system in Australia.

Family Relationship Centres — give information, referrals, dispute resolution and advice on parenting after separation.

Family law courts—deal with family law cases. Court forms and information on family court processes are available online.

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