Couples in the Mooresville area who are struggling through difficult or unhappy marriages can sometimes feel trapped. It can be hard to see that outside of the bad relationship there is hope, a light at the end of the tunnel. To bridge the gap between the uncomfortable today and the better tomorrow, some legal action will need to be taken. In North Carolina, the law only permits a marriage to end in only one of two ways: 1) through divorce or 2) through an annulment. To learn more about annulments and how they work, keep reading.
Though we all likely know a good deal about divorce, with friends and family members able to report back on what happens, annulments are far less common and thus far less understood. So what is an annulment? Legally speaking, an annulment is an action taken to dissolve a defective marriage. Defective, when used in this context, should not be taken as a pejorative. Defective has a more technical meaning, that the marriage was legally flawed in some way.
Having a void or voidable marriage is very rare and only happens in a few rather limited circumstances. So what if your marriage isn't void or voidable? What then? Unfortunately, you will not be able to pursue an annulment as annulments exist solely for these circumstances. If you have a valid marriage, then the only path forward is to pursue a divorce.
When is a marriage void? A couple married in Iredell County would only be deemed to have a void marriage if one of the parties to the marriage was already in a legally valid marriage to another person. A void marriage is one that is treated by the state has not having existed at all. In the case of bigamy, the state views any marriage after the first to be void. This is an important point. If one party has been married more than once, the state assumes that the first marriage is the valid one and the second is not. Not only are such subsequent marriages void and utterly lacking in legal significance, a person who marries multiple people has actually committed a crime. In North Carolina, bigamy is a felony and can lead to jail time.
What about voidable marriages? Voidable marriages are those that are seen as valid until action is taken to bring the flaws in the marriage to light. Some examples of categories of marriages that can be voidable are those where parties to the marriage are too closely related, where one (or both) parties is underage, where one or both parties is impotent or where one or both parties is alleged to lack mental capacity to enter into marriage. In these cases, the marriages may have appeared perfectly valid until the moment they were challenged.
An important point to make is that there is a difference between void and voidable marriages. Void marriages can never be valid, no matter what. They were fundamentally flawed from the beginning and can't be saved or validated. If a person was already married to someone else, it doesn't matter if he or she decides to divorce, the marriage to the second person is already void.
If your marriage is found to either be void or voidable, then an annulment is possible. If that happens, the impact is quite significant. Many people imagine that annulment occurs in much the same way that a divorce would, and that is absolutely incorrect. If you are granted an annulment, your marriage is set aside and, for all legal purposes, it is treated as if it never took place. This is an important point to understand. Whereas divorce represents the end of a marriage, an annulment is more of an undoing, you are erasing the past entirely, not simply taking a marriage apart. Some kinds of temporary alimony are available, but permanent alimony is absolutely not allowed in an annulment. Child support can be awarded in these cases, though division of assets does not occur as the parties were never lawfully married so there is no marital estate to divide.
If you live in the Mooresville area and think your marriage might qualify for an annulment and have questions, please reach out to the experienced family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC. Our lawyers will turn their knowledge and many years of experience with family law to your advantage, working tirelessly to ensure your case is handled properly. Contact us now.