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Annulment Law in Virginia

What is the legal difference between an annulment and a divorce?

A divorce is the dissolution of a legally valid marriage whereas by granting the annulment, the court is saying that the marriage never existed in the first place.

Annulments are frequently misunderstood by the parties wishing to obtain one. In Virginia, there are only a few very specific and narrow requirements that must be met for one to obtain an annulment.

They are split into two groups, the first being voidab initio marriages. These include:

  • Same sex marriage
  • Bigamous marriage (marrying another while still being married to someone else)
  • Marrying a relative (in Virginia this includes ancestor and descendant; brother and sister whether whole blood, half-blood, or by adoption; and uncles and niece or between and aunt and nephew)
  • Underage marriage

The second group includes voidable marriages, these include:

  • Mental and physical incompetence at the time of marriage
  • Marriage to a felon if the other person did not know at time of marriage
  • If one person had been without the knowledge of the other, a prostitute
  • If mother is with child by another person other than the husband at the time of marriage
  • Fraud
  • Duress
  • Sham marriages – so called “Green Card" marriages
  • Marriage in jest – see Britney Spears

What is the difference between void ab initio marriages and voidable marriages?

Void ab initio marriages are thought to be contrary to public policy and the state has an interest in ending the marital relationship. Support and property rights are generally waived if an annulment is granted on void ab initio grounds, not so with an annulment granted on voidable grounds.

Are there any time limits after the marriage that I must comply with to obtain an annulment?

Yes. Generally speaking, you have to file for an annulment within 2 years of the date of marriage for voidable marriages or you will be barred from seeking an annulment.

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