Because we get asked this question often, we thought it would be prudent to clear up some common misconceptions about the grounds for Annulment.
Let’s start with the basic definitions:
An Annulment is a legal declaration that a marriage was invalid (a.k.a. null and void).
A Divorce, on the other hand, terminates a marriage between two parties. A divorce does not negate the legality of a marriage, it simply dissolves the marriage.
Grounds for an Annulment
It is surprising to most that the grounds for annulment are very limited and are broken down into two categories: void and voidable marriages.
Void Marriages: marriages that the law determines to be automatically invalid
- Bigamy: at least one of the parties was still validly married to someone else at the time of the marriage
- Relative Marriage: where the parties closely related (i.e. brother/sister, aunt/nephew)
- No License: in order for a marriage to be valid in Virginia, the parties must have obtained a marriage license.
- Underage without Consent: Persons under 16 cannot marry (absent pregnancy) and persons under 18 must obtain parent/guardian consent to marry.
- Incapacity: when either party lacked capacity to enter and consent to marriage, unless the parties were married for two years or more at the time of filing for Annulment, or the parties continued cohabitation after full knowledge of the basis for the Annulment. The party who had capacity at the time of marriage, if applicable, shall not be entitled to file for an annulment.
Voidable Marriages: marriages that the law may determine to be invalid, depending on the circumstances
- Impotency: if existing at the time of marriage
- Felony conviction: if either party was a convicted felon at the time of marriage and had not disclosed such fact to the other party.
- Pregnancy: Without knowledge of the other, if the wife was pregnant by someone other than Husband at the time of marriage, or if Husband fathered a child by another woman within 10 months of marriage
- Prostitution: if either party had been a prostitute prior to marriage and had not disclosed such fact to the other party.
- EXCEPTION: as with incapacity marriages above, these grounds for Annulment will be deemed waived if the parties were married for two years or more at the time of filing for Annulment, or the parties continued cohabitation after full knowledge of the basis for the Annulment.
NOT grounds for Annulment (to the shock of many):
- Being married less than 6 months.
- Failure to consummate the marriage.
- Criminal conviction after marriage.
- Never cohabitating together as husband and wife
- Not knowing that your spouse carried substantial financial debt
Grounds for Divorce:
The grounds for divorce are far more broad and include uncontested grounds (i.e. one year of separation) and contested grounds (i.e. adultery). For more details regarding the grounds for divorce, please see: Contested vs. Uncontested Divorces.
If you have questions about an annulment or divorce, the experienced family law and divorce attorneys at BoykoNapier can help. Our attorneys handle cases throughout Central Virginia, including Richmond, Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover. Call us to schedule a consultation at (804) 658-3418 or contact us via email.