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Annulment vs Divorce in Ontario

The Difference Between an Annulment & Divorce in Ontario

In family law, a divorce in Ontario dissolves a marriage from the time that the divorce decree is granted. To obtain a divorce in Ontario, the parties must, at one time, have had a valid marriage. In the vast majority of cases, the criteria required for a divorce in Ontario is a period of separation of at least one year.

In contrast to a divorce in Ontario, an annulment is granted in family law when there was a defect or disability that existed at the time of the marriage that has prevented a valid marriage from ever being created.

In family law, there is a distinction between a marriage that is ‘void’ as against one that is ‘voidable’.

If a marriage is void, a decree of nullity declares that there never was a marriage. A void marriage was never a valid subsisting marriage. For example, if one spouse is already married (and has not been validly divorced), the current marriage is void.

If a marriage is voidable in family law the marriage has a flaw, but the marriage is recognized as valid until one of the parties starts annulment proceedings. The decree that is received annuls the marriage with retroactive effect. A voidable marriage may only be annulled by the application of one of the parties during the marriage. Until and unless one of the parties obtains an annulment, the marriage remains a valid subsisting marriage.