If you need to end your marriage, you may wonder if annulment is an option in North Carolina. Annulment is a legal process that voids the marriage. It is available only under specific circumstances.
What Is Annulment?
Annulment is a legal order by a court that voids your marriage, treating it as if it never existed. This differs from a divorce order, which acknowledges that the marriage existed but legally ends it. Unlike in a divorce, the court cannot divide any jointly owned property. The court may order payment of postseparation support in an annulment case.
Grounds for Annulment
There are only a few grounds for annulment in North Carolina. Some people believe that having a very short marriage is enough to get an annulment. However, that is not the case here. To get an annulment, you must show one of the following grounds:
- Marriage between family members, “nearer of kin than first cousins, or between double first cousins”
- Marriage between a male or female under 16 years old (unless there is a court order due to pregnancy, or the female is pregnant or has a child)
- Marriage when one spouse is physically impotent, as medically diagnosed by a doctor
- Marriage when a spouse lacks mental capacity to understand what marriage is at the time of the marriage
- Marriage undertaken because one or both spouses believed that the wife was pregnant, unless a child is born to the parties within 10 lunar months of the date of separation, if the parties separated within 45 days of marriage and the separation has been continuous
If you cannot show one of these grounds, then the court will not order an annulment in North Carolina. Moreover, couples who are married, live together, and have a child (except in bigamy) cannot receive an annulment once one of the spouses dies.
What About Bigamy?
Importantly, marriage is “voidable” due to the above grounds – you need a court order granting annulment in order to act like the marriage never existed. In contrast, a marriage might be void from the onset – without a court order – due to bigamy. Bigamy is a marriage entered into by someone who is already married. Under the law, you can only be married to one person at a time. As a result, a second marriage without a divorce or annulment would automatically be void in North Carolina. Although a court order is not required for a bigamous marriage to be void, it might be a good idea to get an order to avoid misunderstandings or confusion later on.
Let New Direction Family Law Assist You
If you are considering ending your marriage, the team at New Direction Family Law is available today to answer your questions. With decades of combined legal experience, our attorneys are knowledgeable, effective, and compassionate professionals. We will help you understand your legal rights and work hard toward your best outcome. We proudly serve clients in Wake, Johnston, Durham, and surrounding counties. Contact New Direction Family Law at (919) 646-6561 to schedule a consultation, or visit us at our website.