Annulment of a Marriage in Virginia
There are two main ways to terminate a marriage in Virginia, divorce or annulment. Annulment differs from a divorce as the divorce seeks to end a marriage which is valid while annulment seeks to end a marriage that was invalid. With a divorce, there is a record of you being married, while with an annulment, it is as though your marriage never existed in the first place.
You cannot decide to have just any marriage annulled. There are specific grounds that make a marriage void or voidable, and once there is proof, the court can issue a decree of annulment.
Marriages that are Void in Virginia
There are some marriages that are void from the start in Virginia. This means that Virginia statute prohibits them. Marriages that are void include:
- A marriage between an ancestor and descendant or sibling (whole, half, or adopted); niece and uncle or nephew and aunt (whole or half);
- A marriage where one spouse is still legally married to someone else and the former husband or wife is still alive;
- One or both parties is under 16 years old, unless the female is or was pregnant within nine months of the wedding date and has consent from their parent or guardian; and
- One or both parties is not 18 years old, but is at least 16 years old, but did not get consent from a parent or guardian, unless they were previously married before or were emancipated.
Any marriage that involves bigamy is automatically void without any legal process of divorce decree.
Voidable Marriages in Virginia
A voidable marriage is one that is eligible for annulment in some cases, provided certain conditions are met. Usually these involve some element of fraud, there was a defect in the marriage, or the other party withheld critical information from the other person. Examples of voidable marriages include:
- One party was convicted of a felony prior to the marriage, without the other party’s knowledge.
- The wife was pregnant by someone else at the time of the marriage, and the husband was unaware.
- Prior to the marriage, one party was a prostitute and the other party did not know.
- The husband fathered a child to someone other than his wife within 10 months after the marriage was solemnized.
Another example of a voidable marriage is where one party lacked capacity to consent to the marriage at the time due to illness or mental incapacity.
The court will not grant an annulment for parties who were under 18, had lack of capacity, or due to fraud or duress, if the party asking for the annulment cohabitated with the spouse once the relevant facts were known. Another reason the court won’t grant an annulment that would normally qualify is in situations where the parties were married for two or more years prior to filing the annulment suit.
Retaining a Virginia Family Law Attorney
If you have questions about annulment or divorce, it’s important to speak with a knowledgeable Virginia family law attorney. Contact Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC at 703-997-4982 to schedule a consultation. Let one of our attorneys help resolve all your family-law-related needs.