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West Virginia Annulments
Annulments in West Virginia

Divorces end valid marriages; annulments end a marriage that should never have been valid from the beginning. However, the court can still adjudicate issues, such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division, and children from annulled marriages still have the right to financial support and inheritance.

The West Virginia Code 48-2-301-302 and 48-3-101-107 describes the state’s laws on annulment.

Grounds

A party must prove a legal ground to annul a marriage in West Virginia. The grounds for annulment include:

  • underage, when a spouse was under the legal age to marry;
  • incest, when the spouses are related, second cousin or closer;
  • bigamy, when a spouse has a living husband or wife from a previous marriage;
  • incompetence, when a spouse was either insane or mentally unable to understand the marriage;
  • impotence, when a spouse is permanently unable to engage in sexual intercourse;
  • fraud, when a spouse lied about or hid something essential to the marriage; and
  • force or coercion, when a spouse was forced or threatened to get married.

These conditions apply to these legal grounds:

  • The legal age for marriage is 18 in West Virginia, or 16 with consent from a parent or legal guardian. A person under 16 can only get married with consent from a parent or legal guardian, plus consent from a circuit court judge. If a spouse was married under the age of 18 but had the proper consent, the marriage won’t be annulled because a spouse is underage.
  • In the case of incompetence or impotence, the condition had to exist at the time of the marriage. The marriage will not be annulled if the spouses cohabit after the incompetence or impotence is discovered.
  • In the case of fraud, the fraud must be about something so important that there wouldn’t have been a marriage if it were known ahead of time; for example, a wife hiding her pregnancy by another man; promiscuity; undisclosed venereal disease. Once again, however, if the spouses continued to cohabit after finding out about such fraud, the marriage won’t be annulled.
  • In the case of force or coercion, the force or coercion had to be present on the day of the marriage; however, if the spouses freely live together after the force or coercion is gone, the marriage will not be annulled.

Procedure

The filing spouse is the plaintiff or petitioner; the other spouse is the defendant or respondent. The petitioner needs to have lived in West Virginia for at least one year or have married in the state.

The petitioner files a Complaint for Annulment in the county family court where one or the other of the spouses lives, or where they last lived together.

The petition includes the spouses’ names, addresses, and Social Security numbers, the names of any children, their dates of birth, and residence, the place and date of marriage, and the last place they resided together. It also lists the grounds for annulment, and it includes any desired relief, such as child custody, visitation, child support, alimony, and property division.

After filing the complaint, the respondent must be served a copy of the annulment papers. The court clerk’s office knows the options for service, which may be done even if respondent lives out of state or cannot be found.

After service, the family court schedules a hearing to hear the plaintiff’s argument for annulment. At the hearing, he or she can bring any evidence and witnesses to prove the argument. If the judge agrees, he or she grants the annulment.

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