In Virginia, Annulment provides parties an opportunity to dissolve one’s marriage if the marriage was invalid or voidable from its inception. In most cases, a marriage in Virginia can only be terminated by a final decree of divorce entered by a court.
However, under limited circumstances, a court may grant an annulment as a way to dissolve marriage when there is a legal reason that the marriage should never have existed. If there is a reason your marriage should have been invalid from the beginning, you may be eligible to have your marriage annulled.
How is Annulment different from Divorce?
Marriage is a contract between two people, and it comes with certain rights and obligations and can ordinarily only be terminated by entry of a final order for divorce. A divorce, in addition to dissolving a marriage, can carry with it other financial and non-financial obligations (such as child support, spousal support, division of assets, etc.).
An annulment on the other hand, dissolves the marriage without any financial or other consequences or obligations. However, as mentioned before, Annulments are available as a way to dissolve a marriage in very limited circumstances, namely, when marriages are invalid, or voidable, from their inception.
Parties who qualify for annulment may choose to take that path rather than file for divorce for numerous reasons including religion, not wanting stigma of divorce etc.
Annulment and Void & Voidable Marriage:
Keep in mind, that an annulment is only granted when the marriage is voidable. A marriage may either be void or voidable. If the marriage is void, it means that it was invalid from the beginning and so there is no need for a procedure to terminate the marriage.
As stated before, marriage is a contract between two people and the basic elements of marriage are:
- The parties’ legal ability to marry each other
- Mutual consent of the parties
- A marriage contract as required by state law.
If any one of these basic elements is missing, your marriage may be void from the very beginning. That is, the marriage itself may be unlawful, and you might not even need to take any further action to annul the marriage in Virginia.
Examples of void marriage are:
- The marriage was not properly solemnized per the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia – meaning there was no marriage license or ceremony.
- One spouse was already married at the time of the marriage, and that marriage had/has not been dissolved.
- The spouses were related by blood and were closer than first cousins.
- One spouse was incompetent and wasn’t able to understand and consent to the marriage.
- The spouses were both under the age of 18.
When can I get annulment in Virginia:
If a marriage is voidable, then you are required to file for an annulment in order for the marriage to be dissolved. Virginia Code Section 20-89.1 provides the following grounds for an annulment in Virginia:
- Impotence: One spouse was impotent at the time of the marriage and unable to engage in sexual relations.
- Child by Other Person: The wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage by someone other than her husband or the husband fathered a child with a woman other than his wife within 10 months of the marriage.
- Fraud: One spouse only agreed to marry because of the other spouse’s deception. Grounds for fraud include lying about venereal disease, lying about religious beliefs, and hiding a pregnancy by another person.
- Duress: One spouse only entered into marriage because of duress, force, or fear of serious harm.
- Prostitute or Felon: One spouse didn’t tell the other that they were a prostitute or a convicted felon.
- Sham marriage: The spouses married for reasons other than the normal purposes of marriage
For fraud to be a legal ground to annul a marriage, the fraud must be bad enough that there would not have been a marriage without it. Fraud such as lies about age, health, wealth, and prior marriages aren’t enough to have a marriage annulled.
If a spouse is impotent, but the other spouse continues to live with that spouse for a long time after finding out about the impotence, the marriage is no longer eligible for annulment.
For an annulment to be granted because of duress, a spouse must have been coerced or threatened at the time of the marriage.
Sham marriages that may be annulled include marriage just to legitimize a child without intending to live together and marriages only to gain immigration status.
Two-Year Requirement for Virginia Annulment:
As one final note, remember that Virginia has a two-year requirement for filing for an annulment. If you continue living with your spouse after learning about a fact that can be the basis for an annulment, you cannot file for an annulment. Similarly, if you remain married to each other for two years, you cannot file for an annulment.
To schedule a consultation regarding your divorce or annulment case, call our experienced Virginia divorce & family law attorney at 571-766-6860 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Khanna Law, PLLC:
Khanna Law is a full-service law firm located in Reston Virginia. We specialize in all aspects of divorce & family law, family & business based immigration law, as well as trust and estate law. We proudly serve clients throughout the Northern Virginia area including Fairfax, Loudoun, Arlington, and Prince William County.
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We pride ourselves in not only zealously representing our clients inside and outside the courtroom, but also in providing them with a clear understanding of the legal rights and process they are undertaking. No matter the complexity of your case, you can trust us to provide you with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and a client focused approach to your case.