Annulment vs. Divorce in Virginia: What’s the Difference?
In the state’s most recent data, Virginia saw nearly 30,000 divorces and annulments in 2013. To contrast, that same year, just over 55,000 marriages took place. Accordingly, more over half as many people terminated their marriage than entered into a marriage in recent years.
Interestingly, the state data groups divorce and annulments together despite the fact that the two legal concepts are very different. To understand the difference, first we must discuss exactly what marriage is. Although there is the romanticized notion of love and marriage, at its most fundamental level, marriage is a contract between two people, and with it come legal rights and obligations as set forth by the Virginia State Bar.
What is an Annulment?
Under Virginia law, a person may sue to annul a marriage when they believe that the marriage was never valid to begin with. To contrast, a person will seek divorce only in the event that the marriage was, in fact, valid. A court may grant an annulment when it deems that the marriage was not valid, as indicated by the following limited examples:
- The marriage license was improper;
- The marriage was entered into while one person was still married to another person;
- The marriage was incestuous;
- The marriage was entered into under duress or while another person was incapacitated;
- Prior criminal convictions; or
- Prior children exist that another spouse was not aware of.
There are a variety of other reasons a court may deem a marriage annulled and it is important to note that where one person in a marriage seeks annulment, the other person may sue to affirm the marriage. Certain evidences, such as living with the spouse despite the issue that would invalidate the marriage, may serve to actually legitimize marriage.
Why Should I Seek an Annulment?
For many, an annulment is preferable to a divorce for religious or other personal reasons because it is believed that a divorce carries more stigma. Another reason, and probably a more persuasive reason in the eyes of many, is that if a marriage was never valid to begin with, then a judge cannot require spousal support or property division.
Even though a judge cannot order support or devise property after an annulment, they can still determine custody of minor children.
Virginia Family Law Attorneys can Advise you During an Annulment or Divorce
Whether you are seeking a divorce or an annulment, legal expertise is advised because in both instances, a person must assert or defend allegations in front of a judge and the result can drastically impact your emotional and financial well being. The Leesburg family law attorneys at Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy PC are dedicated to helping you through these difficult times and we understand that you need a supportive yet competent divorce attorney who can be your advocate in front of both a judge and other parties to the divorce or annulment. Please do not hesitate to contact us right away and inquire as to how we can help you.