Virginia law provides for the annulment of a marriage under certain circumstances. A marriage subject to annulment may be classified as either a “void” marriage or a “voidable” marriage. If a court decides that a marriage was void, an award of spousal support and equitable distribution of property interests are unavailable to the parties.
Why seek an annulment? Some parties wish to for religious reasons as well as emotional reasons.
Grounds for annulment of a “void” marriage include bigamous or polygamous marriages as well as incestuous marriages. Grounds for annulment of a “voidable” marriage include marriages procured under fraud or duress, mental incompetence of one party, and/or the physical impotence of a party. Additionally, a marriage is voidable where one spouse conceived a child born to a person who is not the other spouse within 10 months after the marriage without the knowledge of the other spouse. In addition, a marriage may be annulled where either party did not know at the time of the marriage that the other party had been convicted of a felony or had been a prostitute.
However, a defense to an annulment action is when the complaining party continues to cohabit with the other party after gaining knowledge of the facts giving rise to a voidable marriage – then the defense of “ratification” will apply.