An annulment is different from a divorce. Where a divorce declares the marriage to be dissolved, an annulment declares that the marriage never happened.
There is a lot of rumor and misinformation about annulments. For example, annulment is not a way for people who regret their marriage to back out of it in its early stages. Although you might be able to get a religious annulment, an annulment in North Carolina can be granted even if a religious annulment has been denied. Also, just because you couldn’t get a religious annulment, that doesn’t mean you can’t have your marriage annulled by the state of North Carolina.
There are only limited circumstances under which you can get an annulment in North Carolina and they are all defined by our state statute. These exclusive reasons include:
- You married someone who is nearer kin than first your cousin or double-first cousin
- Either spouse was under 16 years of age at the time of the marriage, absent their parent’s consent
- Either spouse was already married to another person at the time of your marriage (bigamy)
- Either spouse is physically impotent
- Either spouse was incapable of consenting to the marriage due to incompetence, fraud, duress, or insanity
- The parties mistakenly believed the wife was pregnant at the time the marriage occurred
Even if one of these describes your circumstances, you may still not be able to get an annulment:
- If you have a baby as a couple, you can no longer get an annulment, except in cases of bigamy.
- Also except for cases of bigamy, you cannot get an annulment after your spouse has died.
- Finally, if you got married because you mistakenly believed there was a pregnancy, you can’t get an annulment unless you separate within 45 days of the marriage. And, you can’t get an annulment if you have a baby within 10 months of your separation date.
As long as you qualify, getting an annulment is a lot like getting a divorce. You will need to file a petition and divide any shared property and debt. In cases of bigamy where there are children, you would need to make child custody and support arrangements.
If you don’t qualify for an annulment, you can still file for divorce as long as you have lived in North Carolina for six months and lived separate and apart from your spouse for a year and a day with at least one of you intending for that separation to be permanent.
Whatever the reason you are interested in an annulment, talk to a compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile to ensure your marriage is unwound in the most painless way possible.