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Can Marriages Be Annulled?

Many people want to know whether their marriage can be annulled instead of going through a divorce.  The Commonwealth of Virginia does permit annulment of marriages for defined reasons.  To annul a marriage means to void it.  Under Virginia law, some marriages are void from the outset.  Other marriages are considered  voidable.  These terms are not simply interchangeable– the distinction between the meaning of the terms void and voidable may have serious consequences.

Void marriages include the following:

  • A marriage where one or both of the parties are under eighteen years of age when the marriage is solemnized and who have failed to obtain the consent of the guardian(s) for the person(s) under eighteen;
  • A marriage entered before the legal dissolution of a previous marriage of one or both of the parties;
  • A marriage between an ancestor and a descendent, or between siblings, regardless of whether the familial relationship is created by full blood, half blood, or adoption;
  • A marriage between an aunt and a nephew or an uncle and a niece, regardless of whether the familial relationship is created by full blood or half blood; and
  • A marriage solemnized when either party lacked the capacity to consent due to either infirmity or mental incapacity.

Voidable marriages include the following:

  • A marriage where one or both of the parties suffered from mental or physical incompetence;
  • A marriage entered under duress;
  • A marriage entered under fraud, which would include situations in which
    • A marriage that was a sham, entered solely to obtain a “green card;”
    • One spouse was a former prostitute and failed to disclose the fact prior to marriage,
    • Either spouse failed to disclose that they had a venereal disease,
    • Either spouse failed to disclose that they had a felony conviction; and
    • Wife was pregnant by a man other than her husband and failed to disclose the information prior to the marriage.

The legal consequences resulting from void marriages and voidable marriage are significant in their distinctions. Unlike a void marriage, which is invalid from the beginning, a voidable marriage is generally regarded as a valid marriage unless a judicial decree is issued declaring it void.  Thus, whereas a void marriage does not require an annulment to make the marriage void, the voidable marriage does.

If an annulment is not obtained for a voidable marriage, any subsequent marriage by the spouse will be deemed bigamous. Despite the fact that a court decree is unnecessary to declare a void marriage invalid since it is invalid from the outset, attainment of a judicial decree declaring the void marriage invalid is advisable to clearly settle the status of the parties involved, including children of the void marriage.

There are many nuances to annulment of a marriage.  If you are considering an annulment, be sure to consult with experienced counsel to avoid costly mistakes!

Testimonials

An outstanding job on my case to have custody, visitation and support decided in my home state instead of Virginia after I separated from military service.- A.E.