sad-couple-sitting-couchYes, recently married couples in Virginia may be able to get an annulment. But, annulling a marriage may not be possible in all cases. The Commonwealth of Virginia defines specific grounds for annulment that may be valid. Annulments and divorces may seem similar, but they have very different legal outcomes. If you have any questions, consult with Chesapeake family law attorney James E. Short for advice on how best to proceed. 

What Is a Marriage Annulment?

An annulment effectively ends a marriage that shouldn’t have happened in the first place. You may be eligible for annulment if your marriage is invalid or there is a legal reason why the marriage should not exist. 

While both partners may agree to annul their marriage, this is not a requirement. One spouse may file for an annulment without the other partner agreeing, just like they can in a divorce. When the court completes an annulment, it voids the marriage. Both partners are free to remarry after the process is complete. 

How Are Annulments and Divorces Different?

Both divorces and annulments end a marriage. They have this in common, but annulments and divorces have different legal ramifications. 

With an annulment, it is as if the couple was never legally married in the first place. It is as if the marriage never existed because it was invalid from the start. There must be a valid legal reason to annul a marriage. 

A divorce, by contrast, dissolves a valid marriage. Both partners are entitled to certain legal rights post-divorce. They may not be entitled to the same rights after an annulment. Divorcing spouses may be entitled to spousal support payments and the division of property. A couple filing for annulment does not undergo the same process. However, child custody, visitation rights, and child support may still be involved. 

Unlike an annulment, a divorce does not need a valid legal reason. The divorce can be fault or no-fault, contested or uncontested. Each of these situations is different. It is prudent to speak to a skilled family law attorney to understand all of your options. 

What Can Be Grounds for Annulment?

Simply changing your mind is not enough of a legal reason to get an annulment. Virginia law outlines specific valid grounds for annulment. The spouse filing for annulment (plaintiff) must cite one of these reasons:

  • One of the spouses was already married at the time of the marriage, resulting in bigamy
  • The officiant did not have legal authority to perform the marriage ceremony
  • The marriage license is invalid
  • The marriage is incestuous, as the spouses are closely related, closer than first cousins
  • One spouse was not mentally competent enough to understand the marriage
  • One partner entered the marriage based on the other spouse’s fraud or deception
  • One spouse did not know their partner was impotent
  • One of the spouses is under the legal age of 18 and did not have parental consent
  • One spouse did not know the other spouse was a prostitute or convicted felon
  • The wife was pregnant by another man at the time of marriage without the husband knowing
  • The husband fathered a child with another woman within 10 months of the marriage without the wife knowing
  • One spouse only entered the marriage under duress, threat, or coercion
  • The marriage is a sham, like only getting married to gain immigration status

How Long Do I Have to File?

You have two years from the date of the marriage to file for an annulment in Virginia. After two years, annulling a marriage is no longer possible. The couple can proceed with a divorce or separation instead. 

How Do You Get a Virginia Annulment?

Only one spouse needs to apply for a marriage annulment in Virginia. To do this, they file a “Complaint for Annulment.” Either spouse needs to have lived in Virginia for at least six months. The filing spouse is the plaintiff, and the other spouse is the defendant. The Complaint for Annulment will include the following:

  • Your full name, address, and phone number
  • Your spouse’s full name, address, and phone number
  • The date, city, and state of the marriage
  • Which spouse lives in the filing county
  • Whether the judge needs to decide child custody, child support, and visitation rights
  • The legal grounds for the annulment
When you file the Complaint, you must serve it on your spouse. The court will set a date for a hearing. You will explain and prove your legal grounds for annulment at this hearing. The judge will then approve or deny your request to annul the marriage.

Why Hire a Skilled Family Law Attorney?

Dissolving or voiding a marriage can be a complex matter. In some cases, an annulment might make sense. In other cases, a divorce may be in your best interest. Remember that marital property is only divided in a divorce and not an annulment. An annulled marriage cannot result in alimony payments either. 

Before you file a Complaint for Annulment, discuss your options with James E. Short. An experienced family law attorney, Mr. Short, can assess your case. He can offer guidance for your specific situation. An annulment may not always be possible. If you want to retain certain legal benefits post-marriage, an annulment may not be preferable either. Mr. Short can help you sort this all out.