There’s no need to be embarrassed. Mistakes happen and, trust me, we’ve all seen much, much worse than a really short term marriage. In fact, in a lot of ways, a super short term marriage is best.
Personally, you may have some explaining to do to family and friends. But legally? There’s not very much that’s marital after just a few months, so there’s not a lot to divide – which keeps the potential for disputes to a minimum, and usually keeps these cases out of court. As far as divorce goes, the best one costs you as little as possible (which usually translates to staying out of court) and resolves things as quickly and easily as possible. If you don’t have children in common (and/or aren’t currently expecting), you can get divorced with just six months of separation if you’re able to enter into a separation agreement.
That means you’ll be back on your feet pretty quickly. This may not be the ideal scenario, but there’s no question that it’s better to figure out that things aren’t working pretty quickly, rather than after you’ve wasted a bunch of time.
But I don’t want a divorce. It was so quick, can’t I get the marriage annulled?
No, probably not. Annulments are more of a thing in movies than they are here in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Maybe the laws in other states are more flexible than here, but there are very, very few situations where you qualify for an annulment.
What is an annulment?
An annulment is when, legally, a court decrees that no marriage actually took place. It erases it, like it never happened. Sound good? Well, yeah – I like to think of the court wielding a big magic eraser, too. But think a little more… If there was no marriage, there’s no marital property. There’s no…well, nothing. Since you weren’t married, anything that you may have purchased or acquired together isn’t marital property, and it’s subject to division in a divorce. Without the divorce, you have no interest in anything earned, acquired, or purchased during the marriage – there was no marriage. It actually kind of makes a sticky mess.
Even in a marriage of only a couple of months, people often buy houses or cars, earn money or get bonuses – all things that would, technically, be marital property and could be divided in a divorce. If you’re thinking you want to take anything at all out of the marriage, an annulment is not your best bet.
It may not be a common way of thinking, but divorce protects married people. It means that no one can walk away and pretend it never happened. It means you owe each other something. If there’s no marital property anyway, it’s easy – but you at least have to go through the motions to legally wrap up the marriage. It can be a pain, but its intended to be a protection, especially for the lesser earning spouse.
You almost certainly can’t get an annulment, but, if you need more information to be satisfied, I’m happy to give it to you.
In Virginia, you can get an annulment where:
1. There’s a defect in the marriage itself.
This basically means that the person who performed the marriage wasn’t qualified to perform a marriage ceremony, or one of you was already married.
Since a valid marriage didn’t actually take place, you don’t qualify for a divorce – you have to get an annulment instead. You have two choices – an annulment, or to correct the defect in the marriage and remarry.
2. Important information was withheld from you before the wedding.
Now, before you get too excited, you should know that the court already specifically defined what kind of information is “important,” and only this specific kind of lie (or omission, if we’re being kind) will qualify you for an annulment:
• If your husband as convicted of a felony prior to your marriage, and he didn’t tell you about it before you got married.
• If your husband was unable to have children, and didn’t tell you about it before you got married.
• If your husband fathered a child outside of your relationship within ten months of your marriage, and didn’t tell you about it.
• If your husband previously worked as a prostitute, and he didn’t tell you about it before you got married.
3. Where fraud is an issue.
Again, there’s a test! If you plan to introduce evidence that you were defrauded into marriage, you’ll have to use the following four part test:
• Your spouse lied or misrepresented something to you.
• The lie or misrepresentation was intentional.
• You relied on your husband’s lie or misrepresentation.
• You were hurt because you relied on your husband’s lie or misrepresentation.
Annulment is one of those things that sounds better than it is. In most cases, because you have to prove that one of these things exists, you’ll have to go to court and offer evidence that proves, to the satisfaction of the judge, that you deserve to have your marriage annulled. As you can probably imagine, that translates into a more expensive legal proceeding than it would probably amount to if you reached an agreement and settled out of court.
Talk to an attorney. Figure out what marital property exists, if any, and whether there are any issues related to division of retirement or support. If it’s only a few months, chances are there’s not that much in common anyway. If a child has been born, custody and visitation may complicate things, but, even still, we’re often able to work things out.
Don’t panic. I know this isn’t a comfortable position to be in, but, like I said – better to figure out that it won’t work sooner rather than later, right? For more information, or to discuss your short term marriage with us one-on-one, give our office a call at 757-425-5200. We can help.