Once an annulment is ordered by the court, the marriage being annulled is deemed to never have existed. The parties who were married will have a status change as though they have never been married before. Annulments are only allowed in North Carolina under very few circumstances. An annulment differs from a void marriage, which is discussed below.
Who is Eligible?
Under North Carolina law, the following circumstances qualify for an annulment:
- Marriage between family members: Any marriage between family members that are nearer in familiar relationship than first cousins qualify for an annulment. This type of relationship would be one between double first cousins, a parent and child or siblings.
- Infancy: Generally, a marriage between two minors under the age of 16 will be eligible for annulment, unless there is a court order as a result of pregnancy. The marriage will no longer be eligible for annulment if the girl is pregnant or if a child has been born to the couple, unless the child is no longer living at the time the action is brought or if one of the parties is deemed to have been incompetent at the time of the marriage.
- Impotence: If either party is physically impotent (and diagnosed as such by a doctor) at the time of the marriage, the marriage may be eligible for annulment.
- Mental Incapacity: If a party is deemed to lack the mental capacity to understand the “special nature of a contract of marriage, and the duties and responsibilities which it entails,” the marriage may be eligible for annulment. It does not matter if the party was incapacitated before or during the marriage, for the annulment to be considered, the party must have been incapacitated at the time of entering into the marriage.
- False Pretenses: An annulment may be granted if a marriage was entered into under the “representation and belief” that there is a pregnancy and it is found that a child is not born within 10 lunar months of the date of separation; or if the parties separated within 45 days of the marriage and the separation has been continuous for one calendar year. However, with the exception of a bigamy, couples who live together after marriage and the birth of a child are not eligible for annulment or voidability once one of the parties is deceased.
How is an Annulment Achieved?
Family law matters are generally handled by the District Court of each county in North Carolina. To file for an annulment, you must contact the Clerk of Court in the county in which you reside. If you have questions, please contact our office for assistance.
What is a Void Marriage?
A voidable marriage is different from a void marriage. Unlike the voidable situations above, a void marriage does not require an annulment because a void marriage was never valid to begin with. The only situation in North Carolina that is automatically void by operation of law is a bigamous marriage. This type of marriage occurs when one of the parties to the marriage was already married when they entered into another marriage. An annulment is not needed for this circumstance since the marriage is automatically void. However, the courts will grant one for this reason and it is probably a good idea to go ahead and get one to avoid possible confusion, legally and personally. Therefore, the only automatically void marriages are those that are bigamous, all other issues as discussed above are just voidable, not void, until ordered by the court.