Not every marriage in Virginia is entered into by two people who are deeply in love with one another. Sometimes, one party keeps something of great importance a secret from the other party, only for the truth to be exposed after the marriage vows are said. Or, perhaps a party was intoxicated when they got married, or they were coerced into the marriage. Any of these situations could make a person regret having gotten married in the first place. People in such situations may think that divorce is their only option, but for some, annulment may also be a means for ending the marriage.
How does annulment differ from divorce? In a divorce, it is recognized that a legal marriage exists, and that marriage is legally ended once a divorce decree is finalized. However, if a marriage is annulled, it is as if the couple was never married, and therefore both parties are considered to be single for legal purposes.
However, annulment is only permitted in certain situations. Under Virginia law, a couple can annul their marriage if either party was mentally incapacitated when they got married. If a marriage was entered into under fraud or duress, this can also be grounds for annulment. If a party is impotent, then a marriage can be annulled, so long as the other party did not know of the impotency. If a party had a felony conviction prior to the marriage, then an annulment may be possible if the other party did not know their spouse was a convicted felon.
A person can also seek an annulment if the wife was impregnated by another man. Similarly, a person can seek an annulment if the husband fathered a child with another woman, and the child was born within 10 months after the couple got married. If either party had been a prostitute in the past, this could serve as grounds for annulment as well. Virginia law prohibits half- or whole-blood relatives to marry one another, and bigamy is also prohibited. Keep in mind that certain grounds for annulment are void if the parties lived together after knowledge.
Also keep in mind that couples only have two years from their marriage date to seek an annulment. However, for some couples, an annulment may be an option worth considering. Avoiding the stress that accompanies a full-blown divorce can help spouses whose marriages should be considered void in the first place.
Source: FindLaw, “Virginia Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws,” accessed May 13, 2018