When contemplating divorce, it is not uncommon to wonder if you can get an annulment. An annulment is a legal mechanism that declares the marriage invalid. If granted, it is as if the marriage never took place.
You might find this a happy thought: somewhere out there (in the legal universe at least) this marriage never took place.
In reality, that is hardly ever the case. It is very hard to obtain an annulment in North Carolina. First, the marriage must either be considered void or voidable.
Yes, we said void or voidable. What’s the difference you ask? Well, void marriages are invalid from the get go. (Think bigamy- being married to two people at once) Voidable marriages are considered valid until one spouse proves it is invalid. Below is a run down of circumstances that could qualify for an annulment.
As mentioned above, the only true void marriage in North Carolina is a bigamous marriage. It is also a felony. You do not need an annulment if you are in a bigamous marriage. Bigamous marriages are void “from inception.” There is no actual marriage to erase from the history records.
Certain marriages between family members are voidable. If you are married to someone who is closer kin than first cousin or is a double first cousin, the marriage is voidable.
Marriages where one person is younger than 16 years old are voidable. That being said, there are several exceptions to this rule. If the girl is pregnant or when a child is born to the parties, the marriage cannot be declared void. That is true unless the child is dead at the time of the annulment action or unless one of the parties was incompetent at the time of the marriage.
Marriages where one person is impotent at the time of marriage are voidable. The impotence must be diagnosed by a doctor.
Marriages where one person lacked mental capacity at the time of marriage are voidable.
One Big Exception to Voidable Marriages:
Unless it is a bigamous marriage, once a spouse is deceased, no marriage that has been followed by cohabitation (living together as if married) and the birth of a child can be annulled.
Valid Marriages (Not Void or Voidable):
Lack of a marriage license will not invalidate a marriage. If the spouses didn’t get a marriage license as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. 51-6, it will not invalidate the marriage. As long as the marriage was otherwise properly solemnized under N.C. Gen. Stat. 51-1, the marriage is valid and not void or voidable.
Same-sex marriages are constitutionally valid. So, despite the male/female language in the North Carolina statutes and the statute language still on the books stating same-sex marriages are invalid, they are valid. A same-sex marriage cannot be annulled simply because it is a same-sex marriage.
Length of the marriage is not a requirement for validity in North Carolina. Unfortunately, this means you cannot obtain an annulment simply because you’ve been married for a short time and now want a divorce.
If you were married by a Universal Life Minister, speak with an attorney. As of the date of this article, recent case law suggests a Court may be able to declare the marriage invalid. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to obtain an annulment.
We understand wanting to have your marriage annulled rather than go through the divorce process. Contact us today to find out your rights.