Annulments and Divorces both have the same effect – they legally dissolve your marriage. However, an annulment treats the marriage much differently than a divorce does, and there are limited situations in which you can obtain an annulment.
Annulment vs. Divorce
An annulment differs from divorce in that it treats your marriage as though it never existed. A court will grant an annulment if it finds your marriage was invalid, or can be invalidated, as a matter of law. In order to obtain an annulment, you must have a legally-recognized basis and you must bring your action within 2 years of the date of marriage. In Virginia, there are a number of reasons why your marriage can be annulled:
Bigamy: If you or your spouse already has a husband or wife at the time of your marriage, your marriage is legally invalid, and can be annulled.
Incest: If you and your spouse are related–closer than first cousins—your marriage is invalid and can be annulled.
Incompetence: Your marriage can be annulled if the court finds that at the time you were married, you or your spouse were not mentally able to understand the marriage.
Impotence: If you or your spouse is not able to engage in sexual relations your marriage can be deemed invalid. However, if you know about your spouse’s impotence and continue to live with him or her for a period of time, you will be unable to annul your marriage for this reason.
Fraud: If you only agreed to marry your spouse due to his or her deception or lie(s) about an important issue or circumstance, then a court will annul your marriage. However, the fraud must be severe enough that a marriage would have never taken place without it, and you can’t have continued to cohabitate with your spouse after you find out. Lies about age, health, wealth, and prior marriages will not be considered bad enough to annul your marriage. On the other hand, lying about your religious beliefs or having a venereal disease will be deemed sufficient.
Underage: If you or your spouse were underage at the time of marriage, the marriage can be annulled with certain exceptions. Though the legal age to marry in Virginia is 18, you may get married at 16 if you have the consent of a parent or guardian. Similarly, you may get married under the age of 16 if you are pregnant and obtain the consent of a parent or guardian. If any of the above exceptions are met at the time you are married, a court will not annul your marriage.
Prostitute or Felon: If your spouse did not inform you that he or she was a prostitute or convicted felon before you got married, your marriage can be annulled.
Duress: If you only married your spouse due to force or fear of serious bodily harm then a court will consider your marriage invalid. However, you must have been coerced or threatened at the time of marriage for duress to apply.
Sham Marriage: If you or your spouse only got married due to intentions other than the normal purposes of marriage—such as to obtain a green card/citizenship—your marriage can be annulled as a fraud.
Child by Another Person: Your marriage can be annulled if your wife was pregnant with another man’s baby at the time of marriage, or if your husband has a child with another woman within 10 months of the marriage.
Unlike divorce, the legal effect of an annulment is that you and your spouse were never married. However, a court can order you or your spouse to pay child support and determine issues of child custody and visitation if you and your spouse have children together. Though your marriage is deemed invalid, any children born during the marriage are deemed legitimate and can inherit from both you and your spouse.
If you are considering an annulment or divorce or need assistance with dissolution of your marriage, contact our experienced DiPietro Law Group Attorneys today at (888) 530-4374 to schedule a consultation. We can provide compassionate, strategic help throughout the process and give you back peace of mind and the strength to rebound from your crisis.