QUESTION: I’ve only been married for six (6) months; we don’t have any children, assets or debts that need to be divided by a court. Am I eligible to get an annulment instead of an uncontested divorce?
ANSWER: While a divorce terminates a legal marriage, an annulment means that the marriage never existed legally. To qualify for an annulment, a marriage must be void or voidable. Void means that it was never valid, while voidable means that a court can declare it to be invalid if it is challenged. To be eligible for an annulment you must be able to prove one of the specific grounds to establish that your marriage is void or voidable. To prove the grounds for an annulment you must allege and prove to the court one of the following grounds:
- Bigamy – a spouse already has a husband or wife at the time of marriage
- Incest – the spouses are related, closer than first cousins
- Incompetent – one spouse wasn’t mentally able to understand the marriage
- Fraud – a spouse only agreed to marry because of the other spouse’s deception
- Impotence – one spouse is unable to engage in sexual relations
- Underage – one spouse is under the legal age to be married
- Prostitute or felon – one spouse didn’t tell the other they were a prostitute or convicted felon
- Child by other person – a wife is pregnant by another man at the time of marriage or a husband has a child by another woman within 10 months of marriage
- Duress – one spouse only married because of force or fear of serious harm, and
- Sham marriage – the spouses got married for other intentions besides the normal purposes of marriage.
For fraud to be a legal ground to annul a marriage, the fraud must be bad enough that there would not have been a marriage without it. Fraud such as lies about age, health, wealth, and prior marriages aren’t enough to have a marriage annulled. Annulments have been granted for the following frauds in Virgina: lying about a venereal disease, lying about religious beliefs, and hiding pregnancy by another person.
If a spouse is impotent, but the other spouse continues to live with that spouse for a long time after finding out about the impotence, the marriage is no longer eligible for annulment.
The legal age for marriage in Virginia is 18, with certain exceptions – marriage is legal at age 16 with the consent of a parent or guardian. If a woman is under 16 and pregnant, a marriage is legal with consent of a parent or guardian. Marriage of a girl over 14 is allowed to prevent a statutory rape conviction in Virginia. If any of these exceptions are met at the time of marriage, the marriage won’t be annulled because a spouse was underage.
For an annulment to be granted because of duress, a spouse must have been coerced or threatened at the time of the marriage.
Sham marriages that may be annulled include marriages just to legitimize a child without intending to live together, and marriages only to gain immigration status.
Call Virginia Family Law Center, PC today (703-865-5839) and get a free consultation to discuss your best option with one of our family law attorneys.