Can Annulments Be an Alternative to Divorce in Virginia, and Under What Circumstances?

Annulments can be a legal option for some people interested in pursuing the dissolution of their marriage. However, an annulment is not an option for everybody in Virginia. Annulments are possible only for void and voidable marriages. When a marriage is annulled, it is erased and ceases to exist.

Certain conditions must first be met to qualify for a void or voidable marriage. Attempting to have your marriage annulled can be a complex process. To ensure that your marriage qualifies for an annulment, you should speak with legal professionals familiar with divorce and the annulment process. Please get in touch with our Virginia marital dissolution lawyers if you have any questions or concerns.

What Are Void and Voidable Marriages?

A small number of Virginia marriages may be annulled because they were null and void from the start. Legally, this is known as void ab initio (‘from the beginning’). A void marriage does not require a judicial declaration or the typical annulment proceedings, but both parties may petition for either.

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, marriages involving incest, bigamy, and polygamy are considered void marriages.

What Are the Grounds for Marriage Annulment in Virginia?

Voidable marriages are presumed to be legally valid marriages like any other. They can only be annulled by a judicial determination. If you wish to have your marriage annulled, you must first challenge the validity of the marriage by filing an official annulment action.

Grounds for annulment in voidable marriages include the following:

  • Fraud and deception.
  • Importance.
  • Marriages legalized under duress.
  • Marriages where either party was unaware that their newly married spouse had previously been convicted of a felony.
  • Marriages where either party was unaware that their spouse had once been a prostitute.
  • Marriages where the husband did not know that his wife was pregnant with another man’s child at the time of signing the marriage certificate.
  • Marriages where the wife was unaware that her new husband had fathered a child within ten months after the wedding.
  • Mental or physical incompetence.
  • The individual who performed the marriage ceremony was not legally authorized. Aka, void by lack of solemnization.
  • The marriage license was invalid.
  • The spouse was under 18 and did not have parental consent to marry.
  • The spouses are closely related.

    What is the Process of Getting an Annulment?

    If you wish to have your marriage annulled, you and your lawyers must file a Complaint for Annulment in the local county circuit court. You or your spouse must live in Virginia and the county in which you are filing for at least six months, or else your filing may be dismissed.

    There is a lot of information that must be included on your forms. The forms should include the decision to let the judge overseeing your case decide child custody, child support, and visitation rights. To be sure that you’re not missing anything, it is advisable to hire legal representation. Otherwise, the possibility of making a mistake and having to start part of the process over again exists.

    Once the form is filed, it is then served to your spouse. In the final steps, you’ll have a court hearing where the judge will decide on your case. This step is unnecessary if your case was void from the beginning.

    Are There Defenses to Annulments?

    The complaining party must prove their marriage is voidable at the court hearing. Their spouse will be allowed to defend their position if they so wish. One such defense may be pointing to the fact that the complaining party remained in a cohabiting living situation for an extended period, even after learning of supposed voiding factors.

    Schedule an In-Depth Case Review with Experienced Family Law Lawyers

    Annulment is not an option for everyone, but it might be an option for you, depending on your unique circumstances. It is highly recommended that you speak with family law legal professionals when exploring the prospect of annulment.

    The Law Office of Seth C. Weston has extensive experience handling divorce and annulment cases in the Roanoke, Virginia, area. To schedule your initial consultation, please contact our law offices by calling our legal team at (540)-384-4585.