Certain marriages are regarded in law as absolutely void. In other words the marriage — in the eyes of the law — has never taken place at all.
Marriages are absolutely void where
• one of the parties is under the age of 16
• the parties are closely related
• One of the parties is not a single person, i.e. the marriage is bigamous or polygamous.
• The parties are regarded in law as being of the same sex.
When are proceedings for annulment instituted? The question of voidable marriages
Certain marriages are regarded in law as valid until they are annulled. These are ‘voidable’ marriages and, in the eyes of the law, they can be annulled on the petition of either party.
On the whole these proceedings are rarely used. However, they are retained to meet the needs of those who have objection to divorce proceedings and who have grounds for annulment.
Grounds for annulment
In order for a court to annul avoidable marriage, a person would have to show one of the following grounds:
• the marriage has not been consummated
• the husband or wife had not understood the nature of the ceremony in other words, he or she got married through a mistake (such as not knowing that it was a ceremony of marriage)
• the marriage was to someone of unsound mind
• the marriage was to someone with VD.