Annulments seem appealing to many women because, legally at least, it erases the marriage. It’s like it never happened. A divorce, on the other hand, ends a valid marriage.
It may seem attractive to just erase the marriage and pretend like it never existed. Admit you made a mistake, and move on—no harm, no foul, right? He can go his way, and you can go yours, and you’ll never have to tell anyone, “I’m divorced.” The stigma of divorce has all but disappeared in today’s society, but many women are still reluctant to become divorcees. It’s a mental hang up, which I totally understand. Still, you don’t want to let your discomfort with divorce keep you from trying to make an argument that would prevent you from getting your share of the marital property.
An annulment is probably not your better option, even if you qualify (and you probably don’t). For more information on whether you could qualify for an annulment, see my blog post titled, “Virginia Divorce or Annulment: Do I Qualify?” It may be tempting to think about erasing your marriage, but the truth is that, if the court doesn’t recognize that a marriage ever took place, you’ll lose a lot of rights.
If you weren’t married, you won’t qualify for spousal support. (If you have children, you can still receive child support, because that has nothing to do with your marital status.) Likewise, you won’t qualify for equitable distribution. In Virginia, “equitable distribution” is the fancy phrase we use to describe how we divide marital assets. You have an interest in anything earned during the marriage—it’s marital property! That can include a share in real property (if you bought or made payments on a home), personal property (if you bought a car, motorcycle, boat, etc), and even his retirement or pension. Of course, it works the same way if you have debts that you’ve accumulated during your marriage. You’ll share those, too, but it’s often very helpful to determine who is going to pay what. If you can’t agree, or if he’s not helping the way he should, you can ask the court to help determine which debts go with each of you. If your marriage is annulled, you can’t ask the court for help if he’s uncooperative later on.
I’m always surprised at the number of women who search for information on annulment. It’s one of those things that sounds like a great option when, in reality, it’s not actually helpful at all. Marriage is a good thing, because it protects you and guarantees that you have certain rights. You WANT those rights.