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| reported last week that Kris Humphries is seeking an annulment of his 72-day marriage to Kim Kardashian on the basis of fraud.

Under California law, fraud represents one of several valid grounds for an annulment. Others include, but are not limited to: bigamy; incest; force; or if the couple are under the age of consent.

To clarify, an annulment essentially voids a marriage, making it as if that previous marriage had never occurred.

A divorce, on the other hand, terminates a marriage and the legal rights and obligations that occur as a result of the union of two individuals.

In Ontario, an annulment is not easily obtained. To be successful, an individual seeking an annulment must prove to the court that some defect or disability existed at the time of the marriage ceremony, and as such, prevented the marriage from coming into existence. The proper procedure to follow is to apply to the court and show that there was a defect in either the "formal validity" or "essential validity" of the marriage.

A defect in the "formal validity" refers to a legal defect in the marriage ceremony, due to the fact that the individuals wanting to marry failed to comply with the provincial rules regarding formalities of ceremony. For example a defect could be that the individuals did not publicize their banns, their marriage was solemnized by an individual not authorized to do so, or there was in irregularity in the issuance of their licence.

A defect in the "essential validity" generally means that one of the two individuals entering into the marriage lacked the proper capacity to do so, and as such, the marriage is void. Generally, a defect in the essential validity of a marriage may consist of the following:

  • An inability to consummate the marriage;
  • The parties are within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity or affinity as defined in s.2 and s.4 of the Marriages (Prohibited Degrees) Act (in other words, the spouses are too closely related by blood/genetics);
  • One of the individuals has a prior-existing marriage;
  • age; or
  • one of the individuals lack the appropriate consent due to:
  1. mental incapacity;
  2. duress;
  3. fraud; or
  4. mistake

Based on the high threshold that must be met in order to obtain an annulment, it is rare that they are granted. This being the case, it seems that Kris Humphries may be out of luck!