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Nicholas Cage files for an annulment…four days after getting married

Celebrity news next. Actor Nicholas Cage has just got married for a fourth time and is now reported to be filing for an annulment. Cage and his makeup artist girlfriend, Erike Koike, got a marriage licence in Las Vegas (really) and were wed the same day.

Could this happen here?

The US does not have a monopoly on unwise marriages but regulations in the State of Nevada do not do a great deal to encourage reflection. A marriage licence in Clark County (covering Las Vegas) costs a mere $77 and is available from the Marriage License Bureau in the city, which is open 7 days a week from 8am to midnight (yes!). Most significantly, you can marry immediately after the license is granted. In the state of New York there is at least a 24 hour waiting period (other than in judicially-sanctioned emergencies). Here in the UK the usual minimum period between giving notice at your local register office and actually getting married is 29 days.

Why an annulment?

An annulment is different from a divorce in that you are saying that, for a range of reasons, the marriage was either never valid or it should be held to be flawed in some way.

I’m no expert on US (for that matter Nevada) family law but in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, you need to be married for one year before you can get divorced. You can apply for an annulment at any point after tying the knot but the grounds for doing so are very limited.

A marriage is “void” (never valid) if:

  • the parties were too closely related

  • either was under 16

  • there were problems with the formalities of the ceremony (e.g. the celebrant had lied about their qualifications and was not actually authorised to carry out a legal wedding)

  • either party was already lawfully married

The grounds on which a marriage will be “voidable” (in some way defective but valid until either party successfully applies to the court for a decree of nullity) are complex and more numerous but they include:

  • non-consummation

  • lack of consent from either party (due to duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise, under hypnosis perhaps…)

  • a female spouse being pregnant by another person

In this country, if a decree of nullity is granted, all the financial remedies available upon divorce are on the table. Getting an annulment cannot be used to avoid a financial settlement. That said, an annulled marriage is more likely to be very short and this will often influence what financial package the court accepts as fair.

Just to confuse things, there is a shadowy, strange third category, the “non-marriage”. This is where a couple has undertaken a “marriage-like” ceremony but it is so far away from being a wedding that would be legally valid in the country in which it was celebrated that it is not even a void marriage.

The easiest example to explain is of actors speaking the words used in a wedding ceremony when shooting a TV show; they will have done a lot of things that a real engaged couple would do but they their on-screen marriage is neither valid nor void. This comes up rarely but regularly, particularly where a marriage has been conducted abroad or at a religious premises and the wealthier party is keen to argue that there was a non-marriage and therefore no financial liability.

What next?

Hopefully Mr Cage and Ms Koike will be able to sort things out amicably and move on with their lives…and stay away from Vegas!

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