Am I Eligible for an Annulment?

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Annulments are available in very limited situations in Virginia. Marriage is a contract between two people, and it comes with certain rights and obligations that are ordinarily only terminated with a divorce. A divorce, in addition to dissolving a marriage, can carry with it other economic requirements for support and division of assets. An annulment on the other hand, dissolves the marriage without any other economic remedies. Annulments are designed to terminate marriages that were invalid, or voidable, from their inception. 

Grounds for an Annulment in Virginia 

A marriage may either be void or voidable. A void marriage does not require any procedure in order to terminate it, it was invalid from the beginning. A voidable marriage requires the filing of an annulment and a hearing in order to be dissolved. Virginia Code Section 20-89.1 provides the following grounds for an annulment in Virginia:

            Void Marriages

  • The marriage was not properly solemnized per the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia – meaning there was no marriage license or ceremony. 
  • One spouse was a bigamist and already married at the time of the marriage, and that marriage had/has not been dissolved.
  • The spouses were related by blood and were closer than first cousins.
  • One spouse was incompetent and wasn’t able to understand and consent to the marriage. 
  • The spouses were both under the age of 18. 

Voidable Marriages

  • One spouse was impotent at the time of the marriage and unable to engage in sexual relations. 
  • The wife was pregnant at the time of the marriage by someone other than her husband.
  • The husband fathered a child with a woman other than his wife within 10 months of the marriage.
  • One spouse committed fraud and the marriage took place because of deception. Grounds for fraud include lying about venereal disease, lying about religious beliefs, and hiding a pregnancy by another person.  Lying about your age, wealth, health conditions, and prior marriages, though fraud, are not considered to be sufficient grounds for annulment.
  • One spouse only entered into marriage because of duress, force, or fear of serious harm.
  • One spouse was a convicted felon.
  • One spouse was a prostitute without the knowledge of the other spouse.
  • The marriage was a sham.  The spouses married for reasons other than the normal purposes of marriage, such as to gain immigration status.

If there are no grounds for an annulment, the parties will have to petition for a divorce in order to terminate the marriage. Even if one party thinks they have grounds for an annulment, there is no guarantee that a judge will agree and grant one.  It is best to consult with a family law attorney to understand the grounds, process, and if this is the best way for you to proceed given your specific situation.

The difference between divorce and annulment

There are several differences and implications to annulling your marriage versus a divorce.  Unlike a divorce, the judge has no authority to make decisions about the division of marital property, assets, debts, or to order spousal support in an annulment.  But, the court still has jurisdiction over child custody, visitation, and support. Children from annulled marriages are considered legitimate, and like in a divorce, must be financially supported by both their parents. 

Even in the 21stcentury, when divorce no longer carries the stigma it once did, an annulment can be preferable for religious or other personal reasons.  In some cases, an annulment is preferable for financial reasons where a client wants to protect their assets from division. 

About Melone Hatley

Melone Hatley is a general practice law firm and serves Virginia Beach and the Northern Virginia area.  Our practice areas include Family LawDivorce and Special Needs Children, Traffic Ticket Defense, DUI/DWI Defense, and Trust and Estate Law.  Our philosophy is to provide all of our clients with the highest quality legal representation, innovative legal solutions, and unsurpassed dedication to customer service.  Through our high standards, we strive to be a trusted resource to our clients.

We know from experience that a successful attorney-client relationship depends on our ability to understand your needs and objectives.  For more information about annulment and divorce, contact our office today at 703.995.9900 in Northern Virginia or 757.296.0580 in Virginia Beach,or visit our website:

Rebecca Melone

Written By Rebecca Melone

Rebecca Melone established Melone Hatley P.C. in 2014 with the goal of helping families with a range of legal services from estate and family law to traffic tickets and misdemeanor criminal matters.
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