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Understanding Annulment in Ontario: Legal Process and Eligibility

Understanding Annulment in Ontario

An annulment is a court order that deems a marriage void, treating it as though it never happened. The Annulment of Marriages Act governs annulments in Ontario (AMA). An annulment requires a court application and proof of a flaw in the formal or fundamental legitimacy of the marriage.

Formal Validity of the Marriage

Formal validity is governed by provincial law and relates to irregularities in the marriage ceremony. Respecting the provincial laws pertaining to marriage ceremonies is essential. A few examples of flaws that can render a marriage void are improperly published banns, strange license issuance, or an officiant who solemnizes a marriage without permission.

Essential Validity of the Marriage

Federal law governs essential validity, which deals with matters pertaining to one or both spouses' capacity. Some examples of essential validity flaws are:

1. Inability to Consummate: Rendering the marriage voidable until one party applies for annulment.

2. Prohibited Degrees of Relationship: Marriage between individuals closely related by blood or adoption is prohibited.

3. Prior Existing Marriage, Age, Consent: Factors such as existing marriage, underage marriage, or lack of consent due to mental incapacity, duress, fraud, or mistake can invalidate a marriage.

Difference Between Divorce and Annulment

Divorce and annulment have different legal consequences, even though they both permit parties to get married again or form new relationships. An annulment considers the marriage to have never occurred, whereas a divorce ends a legally recognized union. If formal or essential validity flaws cannot be proven, the alternative is to obtain a divorce. An annulment may be inquired about in short-term marriages, although eligibility is contingent upon fulfilling certain requirements.


For those looking to dissolve their marriages in Ontario, it is important to understand the differences between an annulment and a divorce. When a marriage has flaws in its formal or fundamental validity, annulment is a legal remedy that lets the parties carry on as if the marriage never happened. Speak with legal professionals experienced in Ontario Family Law for further information on eligibility and procedure for annulments.

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