Can I have my marriage annulled?
Is a question I get asked as a Family Law attorney more often than you might think. The reasons why vary, and trust me – I have heard them all. But, in North Carolina, there are specific stipulations that you must meet to qualify. Due to these requirements, annulments can be rare.
What is an annulment?
An annulment is not a divorce. A divorce terminates a marriage. In contrast, an annulment declares that the marriage never legally existed. This is why, in order for a marriage to qualify for annulment, it must first be legally void or voidable. But, what does that mean and what is the difference? This is where the annulment requirements come into play.
Though laws vary by state, generally, for a marriage to be void it must be considered unlawful or not valid. Essentially, annulments are awarded in cases where the courts determine the marriage should have never legally taken place. Hence, an annulment “erases” a marriage while a divorce “dissolves” it.
In North Carolina, the only marriages considered void are bigamous ones. Bigamy is when one person enters into a new marriage, while still married to someone else. You may also qualify for an annulment if any of the following apply:
- Either party was already married at the time of the marriage (bigamy)
- Either party was incompetent at the time of the marriage
- Parties to the marriage are nearer of kin than first cousins
- The marriage was entered into under the belief that the female was pregnant, the parties separate within 45 days of the marriage, and no child was born within 10 months of the date of separation
- Either party was under the age of 16 and there was no parental consent.
Even if you do not qualify for an annulment, you can still file for divorce. There are a variety of ways for couples seeking to split in North Carolina to do so efficiently and amicably including mediation, collaborative divorce, and even a few DIY options. An experienced family law attorney can help you determine if an annulment is available to you and, if not, talk you through all of your options.