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Annulments in North Carolina

Although you often hear of people getting married and then simply having the marriage annulled a few days later, it’s typically not that easy here in North Carolina. N.C.G.S. 51-3 is the annulment statute in North Carolina. In the statute, the legislature makes a distinction between marriages that are “void” and marriages that are “voidable.” The difference is that a “voidable” marriage is valid until it is annulled by the court in a proper proceeding, but a “void” marriage is never valid. See Geitner ex rel v. Townsend, 67 N.C. App. 159 (1984).

N.C.G.S. 51-3 lists the specific occasions when a marriage can be annulled, which I have paraphrased below:

1) The parties are related closer than first cousins

2) The parties are double first cousins

3) Either party is under 16 years of age

4) Bigamy

5) Either party is “physically impotent”

6) Either party is incapable of understanding what it means to be married

Then, the statute gives some important “buts”:

1) If one of the parties dies and the parties lived together and had a kid, the only ground for annulment is bigamy

2) If either of the parties is under 16 years old but is otherwise competent to marry, and the wife is pregnant or a child was born to the parties, the marriage cannot be annulled unless the child is deceased at the time the action to annul is filed

3) If the marriage was entered into under the belief that the wife was pregnant, and the parties separate within 45 days, and the separation has been for more than 1 year, the marriage is voidable unless a child was born within 10 months of the marriage

Additionally, N.C.G.C. 51-2(c) states that if a person is under 18 years old and procures a marriage license through fraud or misrepresentation, a parent of the underage party (or a person or organization having custody) can bring an action to annul the marriage.

Of course, as I say every time, the best thing to do if you would like to get an annulment is to contact an attorney who can tell you how the statutes and case law apply to your specific situation. But typically, if you want out of the marriage, you’re going to have to live separate and apart for 12 months first.