Is Annulment Permitted in North Carolina?

In North Carolina you must be separated for at least one year before you can file for an absolute divorce, so we get calls from many people who want to get their marriage “annulled” instead, thinking it will be easier and faster.

The civil court process by which a marriage is declared to never have existed is called annulment. What most people do not know, is that an annulment is only permitted in very limited situations in North Carolina.

Conditions for a North Carolina Annulment

  • There are certain situations where a marriage is voidable, and only one situation where a marriage is void. A voidable marriage can be valid if both parties wish for the marriage to continue, or if the parties have a child while married.
  • In North Carolina, a marriage is “voidable” in the following situations:
  • Incest, when the partners are closer in relation than first cousins. For example, if two siblings were married or uncle/niece, the relationship can be annulled.
  • If either person was under 16 years of age at the time of marriage. Marriage is not eligible for annulment if the wife is pregnant or the couple has had a child, or if there was a court order allowing the marriage.
  • If, at the time of marriage, either partner was physically impotent, which must be diagnosed by a doctor.
  • If either person, at the time of marriage, was incapable of contracting to marry due to some mental incapacity.
  • If the marriage was contracted under “false pretenses” where the other partner believed that the female spouse was pregnant, when she was not. If a child was born to the parties within ten (10) lunar months of the date of separation, then the marriage is not voidable.
  • In North Carolina, bigamy is the only circumstance which will result in a marriage being “void.” Bigamy occurs when a spouse was already married to another person at the time of the second marriage. There is no way to make a bigamous marriage valid even if the spouses want it to be. While a bigamous marriage is void and an annulment is not technically necessary, the better practice is to get an annulment to clear up any confusion that may arise later down the road.

If you do not meet one of these conditions, then you are not eligible for an annulment, and you must be separated for a period of one year in order to get a divorce.

Process of Annulment

For an annulment to be granted in North Carolina, one spouse must file a lawsuit to annul the marriage. The lawsuit may be filed in the county where either party resides at the time of filing. The filing spouse has to verify to the court that the marriage is either void or voidable. In North Carolina, the court requires live testimony prior to approving the annulment. If, after sufficient testimony, the court agrees that the marriage qualifies for annulment, the judge will sign papers approving the annulment and the marriage will be deemed to have never existed.

Contact an Experienced Annulment Attorney Today

If you believe that annulment may be an option for you, contact the attorneys at Robison Smith Law today and let us help you understand your options under North Carolina law. We have years of practice and dedication to our clients. Contact us today.


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