What Does Void Ab Initio Mean In Contract Law (Best Overview)

What is void ab initio?

How do you legally define it?

What are the important elements you should know!

Keep reading as we have gathered exactly the information that you need!

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Void ab initio

What is void ab initio?

Void ab initio means that a legal document, contract, agreement, or transaction is legally void from the start.

The phrase void ab initio is composed of the term “void” and “ab initio”.

“Void” means something that does not produce any legal effect or has any legal value.

“Ab initio” is a Latin phrase meaning “from the start” or “from the beginning”.

As a result, “void ab initio” means that a document or contract is void right from the outset.

For example:

If someone signs a contract without having the legal capacity to do so, that contract is void ab initio.

In other words, the contract was invalid right from the start.
Another example is for someone to enter into a contract to kill another person.

Contract killing violates public policy and is a crime.

As a result, this contract is void ab initio.
Forgery if a legal document is another cause for that legal document to be void from the outset and legally deemed to have never existed.

Void ab initio definition

How do you define the legal phrase void ab initio?

To say that a legal document is void is to say that it is null.

Therefore, a null document does not have any legal value, cannot bind a person or remain the basis of legal obligations.

A legal document is void ab initio, not only means that it is declared to be null in legal value but its nullity goes back to the start of the contract or when the agreement was initially formed.

Therefore, a contract void ab initio is nullified so that it is deemed as if it never existed in the first place.

Null from the start

The legal consequence of declaring a contract void ab initio is that the nullity so declared affects the contract’s legality from the moment it was signed by the parties, or it was entered into.

This has an important legal consequence.

It means that the parties cannot invoke the terms of the contract, its benefits, or require the performance of any obligations related to that contract.

Also, if the contract is deemed to have never existed, then the parties must be put back to their initial state.

Typically, the court will award monetary damages to compensate for the losses resulting in a party harmed by its nullity to the extent the party was in good faith.

Remedy of contract defect 

When a contract is declared null ab initio, the parties to the contract will generally not be able to remedy the legal defect leading to its nullity.

For example:

If a contract was signed under duress or undue influence, the court will likely declare the contract as null and void right from the start as the plaintiff would have never signed that contract under normal conditions.

This contract cannot be remedied as there was never a “meeting of the mind” or true consent given by a party.
Another example is a person entering into a contract to rob a bank.

This contract violates the law and public policy.  

As a result, there is no possible way for the parties to cure this contract’s illegal object.

Void ab initio vs voidable 

What is the difference between void ab initio and voidable?

A voidable contract is a contract that has certain defects that may be used as a basis to void the contract.

However, if a voidable contract is ratified or defects cured, the parties are bound to a perfectly valid and legally binding instrument.

On the other hand, a void ab initio contract is legally void from the moment it came into existence.

The parties cannot cure a contract void ab initio because the defects are so severe or the contract has been formed in violation of public policy.

Also, a voidable contract will be declared void as of the court’s judgment date whereas a contract void ab initio is void retroactively as of the day it was formed.


So, what is the void ab initio meaning?

Let’s look at a summary of our findings.

  • A contract that is void ab initio is a contract as if it never existed
  • A court’s ruling that a contract is void ab initio leads to the nullification of the contract from the day it was formed and not from the date of the court’s ruling 
  • In contract law, the ab initio illegality cannot be remedied 
  • A void ab initio contract is a contract that cannot produce legal effects and no rights can be derived from it
  • A voidable contract is a contract that “may” be voided but its illegality can be cured to perfect the contract 
Ab initio
Contract amendment 
Contract law 
Contract of record 
Fraud in factum 
Good faith 
New deal
Null and void
Null and void contract 
Oral contract
Rescission of contract 
Signed under duress 
Unenforceable contract 
Unfair contract term 
Void contract 
Voidable contract 
What is a voidable contract 
What is Latin for void