If you follow pop culture at all, you will recall that a little more than ten years ago now, actress Renée Zellweger and country singer Kenny Chesney were briefly married. The marriage lasted only a matter of months. However, a divorce was not the legal action that they took to end their marriage—it was an annulment. Annulments are not as common as divorces because they are only allowed in certain circumstances, but it is worthwhile to discuss what they are in case they apply to a situation relevant to you.
While a divorce ends a marriage of two people who no longer want the marriage, an annulment essentially treats the marriage as though it never existed. In North Carolina, two people can request that a court annul their marriage if they can show that it is an invalid marriage. The technical terms that the state and the courts use are “void” and “voidable.” If a marriage falls into either of those categories, then a court can annul it. Most of the situations below are voidable marriages, as opposed to void marriages. The only void one is essentially that of a bigamous situation. Such a marriage is invalid from the beginning, but it is still best to request an official annulment.
Examples of Annulment-Worthy Marriages
North Carolina lists a few different situations in which the courts will grant an annulment to a married couple.
If the marriage is an incestual one, then that marriage qualifies for an annulment, per North Carolina law. Specifically, the two parties must be closer than first cousins.
If one of the parties is under the age of sixteen and there was no prior court order allowing the marriage, then it may qualify for an annulment. However, the situation is trickier if a child is involved. If the girl or woman is pregnant or has already had a child with the other party, then the courts will not annul such a marriage. The only exception is if the child unfortunately died, either at birth or afterwards.
If one of the parties is physically impotent, then that is a ground for annulment. Along a similar vein, if one of the parties was mentally incapable of entering into the marriage and understanding what it entailed, then the courts may grant an annulment.
If a man marries a woman under the impression that she is pregnant with his child and it then turns out that she actually was not, then he may have grounds for an annulment.
This was simply a very brief overview of situations that can lead to an annulment, as opposed to a divorce. If you think that your situation may fall into one of the categories that we mentioned, then reach out to us. We will be able to help you fully analyze your circumstances and compare them to the different fact scenarios that have gone before the courts of North Carolina to determine the best steps forward. Call the experienced family law attorneys at Powers Landreth PLLC today.