A nullity suit can be brought at any time, you do not have to wait for a year from the original ceremony. Petitions for nullity always have to be heard in open Court. This means they cannot proceed as a paper exercise and there has to be a trial. This makes them generally more expensive and public than divorce/dissolution. However, where there are religious or moral objections to divorce/dissolution it can get round these.
There are 2 basic types of nullity, marriages/partnerships which are regarded as void from the start and marriages/partnerships that can be declared void by the Courts (known as "voidable"). If the marriage/partnership is void from the start it is treated as though it never existed. This is a reflection of the fact that it was never legal for the ceremony to take place. If it is voidable it is valid until a decree is obtained. This reflects the fact that the parties have to decide if they wish the marriage/partnership to be void or not, although any petition usually has to be pursued by the "wronged" party.
- Grounds upon which a marriage/civil partnership is regarded as void are where:
- One or the parties was under 16 years of age at the time of the ceremony
- The parties are too closely related to each other
- Either party was already lawfully married at the time of the ceremony.
Grounds upon which a marriage/civil partnership is voidable include where:
- Either party did not consent to the ceremony
- Either party was unable to consent due to mental disorder
- The respondent had venereal disease at the time of the ceremony
- The respondent was pregnant by someone other than the petitioner at the time of the ceremony
- the marriage has not been consummated, either because one party is incapable or has refused (this does not apply to civil partnerships)
If the petitioner knew of the issue before the ceremony and proceeded anyway, then this may act as a bar to a decree. Also, any petition usually has to be brought within 3 years of the date of the ceremony, although this can be extended in appropriate cases.
The Court has all the same powers on a decree of nullity as they would for a divorce/dissolution. It does not affect legitimacy of any children, provided the parties believed the marriage/partnership was valid and the father was domiciled in England or Wales. A void marriage/partnership does not affect any will, whereas a voidable marriage/partnership will revoke a previous will as soon as a final decree is granted.