A purported legal status or legal document that is taken to have never been valid or enforceable. from the start, from the moment of its purported existence.
Oddly, what is void or voidable is, as far as it matters between the participants, still in force until challenged or rebuked, as the actors to the legal drama not yet unfolded proceed as if the void document or status was lawful. But if and when judicial determination is required, the Court will declare a document or purported legal status void, an exercise that is by definition retroactive. Of course, any time a court of law exercises its prerogative of time travel, the declaration that something that had been relied upon for years was void from the start, can sometimes produce unusual results and consequences.
In Re American Lodging, Justice Robert Grant of the United States Bankruptcy Court noted:
"An act which is completely void, or void ab initio, has no validity and can be challenged by anyone at any time.
"An act which is simply voidable, however, is valid unless and until it is undone at the behest of someone who has a legitimate interest in doing so. "
On the difference between void and voidable, consider these words of Justice Arnolds in Everetts in the context of distinguishing between a void and a voidable marriage:
"Missouri law distinguishes between void and voidable marriages.
"A void marriage is invalid from its inception, because the parties lacked the capacity to contract under state law, or are related in a prohibited manner.
"In contrast, a voidable marriage results from fraud, error, duress, or other imperfect consent. The effect of the annulment decree varies according to whether the marriage is void or voidable.
"A voidable marriage is valid until set aside by a decree of annulment; in contrast, a void marriage is null from inception."
A document that is void; as if it did not exist. In Latin, stated to be void ab initio.
For example, in many countries, contracts for immoral purposes are said to be void: unenforceable and not recognized by the courts.
A good example is a contract to commit a serious crime such as murder.
In Re Lett, Justice Jerry Venters wrote:
"By definition, something that is void is ineffectual, nugatory, and of no effect, and nothing can be done to cure it. The term void can only be properly applied to those transactions that are of no effect whatsoever, mere nullities, and therefore incapable of confirmation or ratification. However, something that is voidable may be avoided or declared void. The word describes a defective transaction or act that may be declared void or, conversely, cured by confirmation or ratification."
Compare with voidable and see also ab initio.