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nullity of marriage

The invalidity of a marriage due to some defect existing at the time the marriage was celebrated (or, sometimes, arising afterwards). A marriage may be null in the sense that it is void, i.e. it was never in the eyes of the law a valid marriage (and the 'spouses' are legally merely cohabitees). It may alternatively be voidable, i.e. valid until made void by a court decree of *annulment, which (since 1971) acts like a decree of divorce and does not end the marriage retrospectively. The form of decree, however, always states that the marriage 'is and has been null and void'. The main grounds for nullity are: close relationship, lack of age, lack of consent, and nonconsummation (see *consummation of a marriage). When granting a decree of nullity the court has wide discretionary powers to make orders for *financial provision or *property adjustment. See also *legitimacy.

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