There are a lot of misconceptions out there about annulments, but the truth is that there are certain specific criteria you must meet in order to qualify. A lot of people seem to think that, if you have a very, very short term marriage, you can just get it annulled, and it will be like it never happened. After all, isn’t that what Britney Spears did when she married that random guy in Vegas after just a few hours of marriage?
The law regarding divorce and annulment is extremely state-specific, so I can’t discuss in detail what the law is in Nevada. In Virginia, however, length of marriage doesn’t by itself provide grounds for annulling a marriage.
What’s an annulment?
When you get an annulment, the marriage is dissolved and, legally at least, it becomes as though the marriage never took place. A divorce, on the other hand, dissolves a legally valid marriage. That marriage isn’t erased, it’s just ended. An annulment erases the marriage completely.
You can see why this would be attractive. You probably wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t wondering whether you’re a candidate for an annulment. But, unfortunately, in most cases, marriages don’t disappear under a puff of smoke—the divorce process formally ends them. In most cases, though, this is actually a good thing. Sure, you have to go through the process of divorce, but that also means that you have a right to equitable distribution (dividing the property). In an annulment, because there was no marriage, there is also no marital property, and nothing to be divided by the court. Divorce gets a bad rep, but, really, the entire process was put in place to protect the parties to the marriage so that one doesn’t walk away with everything and the other left with nothing.
Alright, alright, divorce isn’t so bad. But, still, how do I know whether I qualify for an annulment?
There are only three types of marriages in Virginia that can be annulled.
- Where one party withheld critical information.
Only specific kinds of information really qualify as “critical.” Examples might include if your husband was convicted of a felony or was impotent and didn’t disclose this to you. In most cases, information regarding money isn’t critical so, if he told you he a multimillionaire because he invented the Swiffer, you’re not going to qualify for an annulment just because that’s not true.
- Where there was fraud.
Fraud isn’t particularly easy to prove, because you’ll have to show that you meet all four elements of the following test:
- Your husband made a misleading or fictitious representation;
- The misrepresentation was intentional;
- You had full faith and trust in your spouse at the time he made the misrepresentation; and
- You suffered damage as a result of the misrepresentation.
- Where there was a defect in the marriage itself.
There is a defect in the marriage when (1) one of you was too young to get married, (2) one of you was mentally handicapped at the time of the marriage, (3) your wedding was performed by someone who wasn’t legally qualified to perform a marriage ceremony; or (4) your spouse was already married to someone else at the time of your marriage. (It may seem far-fetched, but I’ve seen this happen more times than you’d think!)
Do any of these situations sound like you? If you think you may qualify for an annulment, act quickly! Protect your right to an annulment by acting promptly to preserve that right.