An annulment is different from a divorce -- a divorce legally ends a valid marriage, whereas an annulment declares the original marriage invalid. The grounds for annulment are strictly limited, and annulments are granted far less frequently than divorces. Virginia, like other states, applies its own annulment law, including a statute of limitations. If you find that you are ineligible for an annulment, you can still obtain a divorce in Virginia, as long as you meet residency requirements.
Determine if you have grounds to have your marriage declared void. Your marriage can be declared void if it is incestuous, if one spouse was a minor at the time of the marriage and married without parental consent, if one spouse was under 16 on the date of the marriage, if one spouse was married to someone else on the date of the marriage, or if the marriage occurred in Virginia and both spouses were the same gender.
Determine if you have grounds to have the marriage declared voidable. A marriage can be declared voidable if one spouse was coerced into the marriage; if one spouse was defrauded -- for example, by a foreign spouse who married to obtain immigration benefits; if one spouse was a convicted felon, impotent or a current or former prostitute on the wedding date without the knowledge of the other spouse; if one spouse was mentally incompetent to consent to marriage on the wedding date; if, without the husband's knowledge, the wife was pregnant with a child not fathered by the husband on the wedding date; and if the husband fathered a child with another woman who was born within 10 months of the wedding date.
Check the date on your marriage certificate to determine if the statute of limitations has expired, if you are seeking annulment based on a voidable marriage. In Virginia, you must file for an annulment within two years of the date of a voidable marriage. The statute of limitations does not apply to void marriages.
Gather all supporting evidence needed to establish grounds for annulment. You may need a copy of your spouse's criminal history, for example, to show that he is a convicted felon.
Obtain Form VS-4 and a civil summons form from the clerk of the Civil Intake Division of the Virginia Circuit Court that sits in the county where at least one spouse has resided for at least six months.
Prepare a Bill of Complaint. The Bill of Complaint should name and provide contact details for both you and your spouse, state the date and place of the marriage, state that you seek an annulment and state the grounds for annulment. It should also request any child support, alimony, child custody and property division terms that you desire. Sign your Bill of Complaint in the presence of a notary public. Prepare it in triplicate and keep one copy for your records.
Complete Form VS-4 and the summons, and sign both documents in the presence of a notary public. Form VS-4 requires basic information for the purpose of compiling statistics, and the summons notifies your spouse of the annulment hearing.
Submit Form VS-4 and two copies of the Bill of Complaint to the court clerk of the Virginia Circuit Court sitting in the county where at least one spouse has resided for at least six months. Filing fees vary by jurisdiction. The court will set a hearing date.
Submit the summons to the sheriff's office with jurisdiction over your spouse's county of residence, if your spouse resides in Virginia. If your spouse is not a resident of Virginia, you must complete an affidavit stating that your spouse lives out of state and give his last known address, and sign it in the presence of a notary public. You must then deliver the Bill of Complaint, the summons and your affidavit to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The sheriff's office or the Secretary will notify the court when these documents have been served on your spouse.
Attend the hearing, and bring all supporting evidence with you. If your spouse opposes the annulment, the judge may set a trial date at which you may call and cross-examine witnesses.