Like several states across our nation, North Carolina holds the bonds of marriage in high esteem and does not provide many easy options for getting out of a marriage. If you or someone you know is married in Monroe Union County and is seeking to end their marriage, know that you have two options under state law - annulment or divorce.

Annulment Explained

Annulment, essentially, is a cancellation of a marriage. When parties enter into a defective marriage, they have annulment as an option to legally walk away from their marriage. A marriage is defective if it is considered void or voidable under the law. When a marriage is void, it is deemed to have never existed in the eyes of the law. When a marriage is voidable, it is deemed by the law to be cancelable or undone. In other words, the marriage can be canceled due to specific circumstances surrounding the matrimony. If your marriage is not considered void or voidable, it cannot be ended through annulment; instead, a divorce is necessary to end the marriage.

Void vs Voidable Marriages

Under North Carolina law, the only manner in which a marriage can be considered void – or was never valid to begin with – is if it is bigamous. Bigamy occurs when one individual is married to more than one person at the same time. One of the parties involved in the void marriage, or a third party, can argue that the marriage is void. The argument that a marriage is void can even be brought forth after one of the spouse’s death. North Carolina law presumes that the first marriage is valid and any marriages thereafter, entered into while the first marriage is still in place, are not.

In fact, it is a felony in North Carolina for someone who is currently married to marry another person while his or her spouse is still living. Even more, anyone who helps another person marry someone while that person is currently married can also be charged with a felony.

A voidable marriage, on the other hand, is one that is treated as valid unless or until it is annulled. Unlike a void marriage, a voidable marriage can only be challenged by one of the parties to the marriage. If age or capacity is the basis for challenging the marriage so that it is declared voidable, only the party seeking protection (i.e. the minor or incapacitated person) can argue the marriage is not valid. There is an exception to this rule, however, the parent of one of the spouses can annul the marriage if his or her child is under 18 and the marriage license was obtained through fraudulent means.

Some circumstances where a Monroe Union County marriage could be voidable include:

  • Either party is under 16 years of age;
  • The parties marrying are too closely related;
  • Either party is physically impotent at the marriage ceremony including:
  • Intoxicated;
  • Under duress;
  • Under undue influence;
  • Either party is incapable of contracting at the marriage ceremony;
  • If the female spouse represents to be pregnant, the parties separate within 45 days of marriage, the separation is continuous for one year, and no child is born within 10 months of separation.

No matter if a North Carolina marriage is void or voidable and later annulled, any child or children born out of the marriage are considered legitimate under state law.

Effects of Annulment

Should the couple successfully annul the marriage, the matrimony is set aside and treated as if it never existed in the first place. In addition, while post separation spousal support – often referred to as temporary alimony – is available, permanent alimony is not available. Even if a marriage is annulled by a North Carolina court, the children that resulted from the union remain legitimate in the eyes of the law. Furthermore, child support may still be awarded even in the event a marriage is annulled. Finally, no equitable distribution of marital assets is permitted under the law because the property is treated as non-marital property because the parties were never legally married.

Legal Help in North Carolina

If you or someone you know believes that your marriage may qualify for an annulment based on your specific circumstances, contact an experienced Monroe Union County attorney right away. At Arnold & Smith, PLLC we have several attorneys that are Board Certified Family Law Specialists that can apply their wealth of knowledge and experience to your circumstance to help you get the best resolution possible. Contact us today for your initial consultation.