Annulments in Virginia
Annulments are powerful. They render a marriage a nullity as if it never existed. Section 20-89.1 of the Virginia Code allows for annulments to be decreed in the Commonwealth, but they aren’t as easy to obtain as portrayed in the movies.
Some marriages are considered void marriages. Under Virginia law, they are invalid by their very nature because they were prohibited in the first place. A list of void marriages are provided in Virginia Code Section 20-38.1 but essentially include bigamous, polygamous, and incestuous marriages. A person may petition the court for a decree of annulment on the basis that the marriage was void, but it is not required because the marriage was an automatic nullity. A court cannot award spousal support or divide property for a void marriage.
Other marriages are considered voidable marriages. These marriages are presumed to be valid, but they can be nullified by a court if certain facts are proven. First and foremost, a marriage is voidable if it was not entered into properly by the parties. According to Virginia Code Section 20-13, a lawful marriage requires a valid marriage license and a solemnization ceremony. If either requirement is not met, a spouse may obtain a decree of annulment. Other grounds for annulment of voidable marriages include:
Fraud or duress
Marriages where a husband does not know at the time of marriages that his wife was pregnant with the child of another man
Marriages where the wife does not know that her husband has fathered a child born to another women within 10 months after the marriage
Marriages where a spouse does not know at the time of marriage that the other spouse had been convicted of a felony
Marriages where a spouse does not know at the time of marriage that the other spouse had been a prostitute
For marriages solemnized in Virginia on or after July 1, 2016, any marriage where at least one spouse was under the age of 18 and not emancipated as of the day of solemnization
Unlike void marriages, a court can award spousal support and divide property upon the dissolution of a voidable marriage. For both void and voidable marriages, a court may award custody, visitation, and child support when children are invovled.
Similar to a divorce case, there are a number of legal defenses that a spouse may have in an annulment proceeding. There are two defenses listed in Virginia Code Section 20-89.1. First, an annulment cannot be decreed if the parties are married for two years or more prior to starting the annulment process in court. Second, some voidable marriages may not result in an annulment if the complaining spouse continues to reside with the other spouse after learning about the fats that give rise to the annulment.
If you would like to know whether an annulment or divorce is right for you, make sure you contact a knowledgeable Richmond divorce and annulment lawyer to review the facts of your case.