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What is annulment in Virginia?

We are sure our readers have heard of annulling a marriage, but some of you may be unsure what the difference is between an annulment and a divorce under Virginia law, and how one might qualify for an annulment. Today, we will present a brief overview of marriage annulment.

The basic difference between divorce and annulment is, a divorce dissolves an existing marriage, and distributes marital property in an equitable manner. An annulment treats the marriage as if it never existed.

State law says that a marriage is eligible for annulment when it is “alleged to be void or voidable” for one of several permissible reasons. For example, a marriage is considered void if one of the parties to the marriage lacked capacity to consent to getting married due to mental capacity or infirmity.

Fraud and duress are also reasons that a marriage may be voidable; that is, one spouse tricked or forced the other into the marriage. However, if the spouse continued to live with the other spouse after the fraud or duress came to light, he or she may not be able to obtain an annulment on those grounds.

Other reasons given in the statute include “natural or incurable impotency of body” at the time the marriage began; a hidden felony; or one of the spouses conceiving a child with a third party within 10 months of the start of the marriage.

Whether to pursue a divorce or an annulment of your marriage depends largely on whether your marriage can be annulled, and which proceeding would best meet your needs.

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