Annulment in Virginia: Understanding the Process and Grounds

In the state of Virginia, an annulment is a legal procedure that declares a marriage null and void, as if it never occurred. Unlike divorce, which dissolves a valid marriage, an annulment establishes that the marriage was never legally valid in the first place. While annulments are less common than divorces, they can be an appropriate option for some couples who meet specific criteria.

Grounds for Annulment in Virginia

To obtain an annulment in Virginia, one or both parties must prove that the marriage is void or voidable.

Void marriages are those that are inherently invalid. Void marriages are void from the start (void ab initio).

Voidable marriages, on the other hand, are those that may be declared invalid due to certain circumstances surrounding the marriage. You can read the statute governing suits for annulment here.

The grounds for a void marriage in Virginia include:

  1. Bigamy: If one party entered into the marriage prior to the dissolution of an earlier marriage, the marriage is void.
  2. Incest: If a marriage is between an ancestor and descendant, or between siblings, or between an uncle or aunt and a nephew or niece, the marriage is void.

The grounds for a voidable marriage in Virginia include:

  1. Fraud or duress: If one party entered into the marriage due to fraud or force, the marriage may be annulled.
  2. Mental incapacity: If either party lacked the mental capacity to consent to the marriage, such as being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the marriage may be voidable.
  3. Impotency: If either party was physically unable to consummate the marriage and the other party was unaware of this fact at the time of the marriage, an annulment may be granted.
  4. Felony conviction: If either party was convicted of a felony prior to the marriage and the other party was not aware of the conviction, the marriage may be voidable.
  5. Conceiving a child outside the marriage: If either spouse was with child by a person other than the other spouse or had conceived a child born to a person other than the other spouse within 10 months after the date of the solemnization of the marriage the marriage may be annulled, as long as the other spouse was not aware of the conception before the marriage.
  6. Underage marriage: If either party was under the age of 18 and did not have parental consent or court approval, the marriage may be voidable.
  7. Failing to follow proper marriage procedures. Virginia law requires the parties obtain a marriage license and have a solemnization ceremony performed by a licensed officiant. Failing to do so may be grounds for annulment.

Process for Obtaining an Annulment in Virginia

To obtain an annulment in Virginia, one party must file a “Complaint for Annulment” in the circuit court of the county where either party resides. The complaint must state the grounds for the annulment and provide evidence supporting those grounds. The other party must be served with the complaint and has the opportunity to respond. You can read the statute governing suits for annulment here.

If the court finds sufficient evidence to support the grounds for annulment, it will issue a decree of annulment, which legally invalidates the marriage. However, unlike a divorce matter, the Court cannot equitably distribute property or grant spousal support.

You can read the statute governing suits for annulment here.

Time Limits for Seeking an Annulment

The time limit for seeking an annulment depends on the grounds. In the case of some voidable marriages, a party cannot seek an annulment if they cohabite with the other after learning of the facts that give rise to grounds to annul or if the parties have been married for two years before filing for annulment. Therefore, it is wise to pursue an annulment as soon as possible after discovering the basis to annul. The longer a couple remains married, the more difficult it may be to prove that the marriage was invalid.

Conclusion

Annulment can be a viable option for couples in Virginia whose marriages are void or voidable based on specific grounds. By understanding the process and requirements for obtaining an annulment, individuals can make informed decisions about their legal options when facing a problematic marriage. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified family law attorney to discuss the specific circumstances of your case and determine the most appropriate course of action.

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