Some residents of the Mountain State have probably heard of the concept of annulment. Married couples that are facing a failing marriage may wonder if they can get their marriage annulled, or they may think annulling a marriage is no different than a divorce. While some married couples in West Virginia can get an annulment, it is not the same as divorce and will not be available to everyone who is married.
A simple way to understand the difference between a divorce and an annulment is to think of when problems with the marriage had started. As Findlaw explains, a divorce stems from problems that occur during the marriage itself. These problems can include adultery, financial mismanagement, abuse, a lack of trust between spouses, or if the spouses simply grow apart. By contrast, a marriage can be annulled if there is an issue with the actual formation of the marriage. In other words, the two spouses should not have married in the first place.
According to West Virginia law, a couple may marry under circumstances that render it eligible for an annulment. A person could marry a spouse but still be married to another person. If the prior marriage has not been dissolved by a divorce, annulment, or the death of the previous spouse, the new marriage is considered invalid. State law also forbids marriages between people of close kin, such as marriages between siblings.
Additionally, annulment can apply to marriages where one party was not considered competent enough or is disqualified by law in some manner. A person under the age of consent, for instance, cannot make a decision to marry. State law also prohibits a mentally incompetent individual from marrying since the person is not able to make sound life decisions, which would include consenting to a marriage.
Sometimes health issues can serve as grounds for annulment. West Virginia law specifies impotency as one such factor. A spouse may discover that he or she is naturally impotent and cannot have intimate relations. Sometimes the problem may not natural or hereditary, as a disease or condition could render a person impotent. State law specifies that the impotency must be permanent, that the spouse cannot be cured of it.
Deception can also be a factor. It would be a nasty surprise if a person marries someone only to discover that the person had committed a crime that warranted jail time for over a year. If the person concealed the prior criminal incident and jail sentence from the spouse before the marriage, state law allows for the marriage to be annulled. Also, a wife might be pregnant by another man but concealed this fact from a husband before the marriage.