annulment, divorce

Can You Annul a Green Card Marriage in Virginia?

My Spouse Married Me for a Green Card. Can I Get an Annulment?

People often call us for help in getting their marriage annulled because, as it turns out, they only got married to obtain a green card. Believe it or not, many spouses with a green card want a divorce because it was a “sham” marriage, which tends to surprise their unsuspecting spouse.

Keep in mind that Virginia law may not offer legal recourse if your immigrant bride or groom decides to leave the marriage, although federal immigration laws may help provide recourse.

Such recourse is outside of our expertise because we are not immigration lawyers. However, we can provide family law assistance.

Generally speaking, having an ulterior motive to marry someone solely for citizenship or residency purposes doesn’t guarantee an annulment in Virginia. If both parties intend to marry, the ulterior reasons for doing so don’t matter under Virginia law unless legal reasons to annul the marriage exist.

Otherwise, you will go through the divorce process – not the annulment process.

Often referred to as “sham marriages,” green card marriages generally refer to people getting married solely to circumvent immigration laws. An annulment is a judicial determination that the marriage is a nullity, or never truly existed, releasing both parties from the marriage. As such, these spouses do not receive certain benefits afforded to many divorcing couples, like property division or spousal support (alimony). Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court judges can still entertain custody and visitation cases, however.

Understandably, people in this situation feel like they’ve been conned into marrying someone who only wanted a green card, rather than someone who fell in love with them. Sometimes, people travel to other countries or join international dating sites hoping to meet authentic people from other cultures. As a result, they have discussions about moving to the United States to spend more time with each other.

These marriages often serve as precautionary tales for others because if it seems too good to be true, it often is.

However, feeling like you got taken advantage of does not entitle you to an annulment in Virginia.

Even brief marriages or ones that seem like green card-only marriages do not give the legal right to annul that marriage, especially since fraud is an extremely difficult thing to prove. It’s not that simple to prove that your spouse fraudulently married you to get around immigration laws. It is particularly challenging to prove that your spouse kept a secret that would deter you from marrying them had you known the secret in the first place.

Many green card holders won’t readily admit that they married solely for immigration status. But that’s what you need in order to prove fraud in Virginia. Remember, love is not a prerequisite to marriage. If your immigrant spouse intended to marry you, then your marriage is legally valid according to Section 20-13 of the Virginia Code.

Get Clarity on Your Next Steps

Our attorney has years of experience helping clients learn the difference between annulments and divorces, as well as their legal rights.

If you’re looking for a trusted Virginia family and divorce law attorney, contact Keithley Law, PLLC today at (703) 454-5147 to schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office. Experience what decades of legal experience in high-conflict divorces can do for you!

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