One cannot simply regard a marriage as having never validly taken place. There are some instances where grounds do in fact exist where a marriage is invalid and annulled. Otherwise, the parties must get divorced.
- An informal marriage concluded without compliance with the legal formalities laid down in the Marriage Act;
- A marriage officiated by someone who had not been properly appointed as a marriage officer;
- A marriage celebrated in the absence of witnesses;
- A marriage between persons who fall within the prohibited degrees of relationship (e.g., father and daughter; mother and son; grandfather and granddaughter; grandmother and grandson; brother and sister (full or half); uncle and niece related by blood to a common ancestor; aunt and nephew related by blood to a common ancestor. Note: marriage between cousins is not prohibited);
- A marriage where one of the parties is already married to a third person;
- A marriage by a male under 18 or a female under 15 without the consent of the Minister of Home Affairs;
- A marriage by an insane person;
- A marriage made under one of the following (“operative”) mistakes: a mistake regarding the nature of the transaction (e.g., one or both of the parties thinking that it was an engagement ceremony as opposed to a marriage); a mistake regarding the identity of one / both of the parties to the marriage.
- An application can be made to Court by a minor to annul a marriage entered into without the prior consent of his/her parents or his/her guardian; by the parents/guardian within six weeks of the marriage, or by the minor within three months of his/her becoming an adult (18 years old).
- A marriage concluded under duress (threats/force/intimidation, etc) by the party who acted under duress in agreeing to the marriage.
- A marriage voidable by reason of fraud (a misrepresentation which induced the marriage) by the party who was misled by the fraud.
- A marriage entered into where the woman is pregnant by a third party at the time of the marriage without her husband’s knowledge (in this instance the law appears to be that only the husband can set the marriage aside, but it may be, in the light of progress towards gender equality, that the wife could also apply to set the marriage aside if she was unaware of the pregnancy by the third party at the time of the marriage).
- An application can be made by either of the parties where one of the parties is impotent at the time of the marriage.