Family Law in Ireland
The effect of an order of nullity is that the marriage never existed in the first place. This is not an easy order to get from the court and a party is strongly advised to seek legal assistance. There are, of course, advantages to a party if he or she can get a Nullity. The main advantage may be that neither party will be required to pay spousal maintenance because there never was a spouse. That does not mean however, that the children do not need to be maintained – they do!
Very often, there is confusion about church and state nullities. A church nullity has no legal effect and merely satisfies the requesting party's ecclesiastical beliefs and may, depending on the denomination, allow a party to remarry in a church rather than a registry office. To have a legal effect and allow a party to remarry, the Nullity must have been achieved through the courts. Remember, marrying a another person when you are still legally married is bigamous and illegal.
In a Nullity situation, the marriage may be void or voidable. There are three broad grounds for declaring a marriage void: 1) non-observance of formalities; 2) lack of capacity; and 3) lack of consent.
If the marriage is declared void ab initio then no marriage ever existed. In theory there is not even a requirement for a court decree in a void marriage but prudence dictates that a party should most certainly seek the decree. Such a nullity may even be obtained after the death of one of the parties.
The voidable marriage can only be sought by one of the parties to the marriage and cannot be instituted after the death of one of the parties. The main reasons for a voidable marriage are: 1) impotence and 2) inability to enter and sustain a normal marital relationship. Such voidable marriages are valid until the court says they are not. However, once the court makes the determination then the marriage is retrospectively invalidated ab initio and seen as never to have occurred.
Nullities are difficult to obtain and the advice of a solicitor should be taken when seeking such relief.
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