Can I Get an Annulment in Virginia?

Written on September 13, 2018

The simple answer is yes, but in very limited situations.  In the Commonwealth of Virginia, marriage is considered a contract between two people, and with it come obligations and certain legal rights.  Unlike a divorce, which is the dissolution of a valid marriage, an annulment is the end of an invalid marriage.  In other words, when an annulment is granted, it is as if the marriage never existed.  This rarely applies to most marriages.  The court only grants an annulment when there is a legal reason why the marriage shouldn’t have existed at all, which leaves divorce as the only legal means to end most marriages.

Grounds for an annulment

Under Virginia law, a spouse needs a legal ground to annul the marriage.  The couple cannot have the marriage annulled if they have been married for at least 2 years.  The following are the specific legal grounds for an annulment.

  • The marriage was not properly solemnized per the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
  • One spouse was a bigamist and already married at the time of the marriage, and that marriage had/has not been dissolved.
  • One spouse was impotent at the time of the marriage and unable to engage in sexual relations.
  • One spouse was incompetent and wasn’t mentally able to understand and consent to marriage.
  • The spouses were related by blood and were closer than first cousins.
  • 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 was under the legal age to be married in Virginia. The legal age for marriage in Virginia is 18.  But marriage is legal at 16 with the consent of a parent or guardian or if the girl is pregnant.  A girl 14 or older may marry to prevent a statutory rape conviction.
  • 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 one or more of the grounds for annulment is not met, then the marriage must end through divorce proceedings.  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.  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 21st century, when divorce no longer carries the stigma it once did, for some, an annulment is preferable for religious or other personal reasons.  In some cases, a person files for an annulment for financial reasons.  Unlike a divorce, if the marriage was never valid, the judge can’t make decisions about property division or spousal support.

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 ChildrenTraffic Ticket DefenseDUI/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:

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