In Charlotte, North Carolina, and indeed the entire state, the bonds of matrimony are held in high regard and as a result, there are few options for breaking such bonds. If you are married and you want to end the marriage, there are just two options: file for a divorce or seek an annulment.
What Is the Different Between a Divorce and an Annulment?
Firstly, let us look at the difference between a divorce and an annulment. An annulment is different than a divorce in that it treats the marriage as though it never existed. So, the annulment renders the marriage void right from the beginning whereas a divorce terminates a marriage on the date that the court enters a judgment.
Furthermore, a divorce and an annulment have different legal consequences. An annulment changes both you and your spouse’s past and present marital status by declaring that what seemed to be a valid marriage at the beginning in really no longer a marriage whatsoever, nor was it ever one. On the other hand, a divorce focuses on the future marital status of you and your spouse and aims to equally divide property that was obtained during the marriage.
Usually, divorce proceedings are initiated due to what happened after the marriage, whereas an annulment is typically sought based on something in existence at the time of the marriage.
Annulment and Defective Marriage
Annulments are available for parties to defective marriages, or those marriages that are considered legally voidable or void. Your marriage is only considered legally able to be canceled in a couple of circumstances.
In the state of North Carolina, the only marriage that is deemed not to have existed at all is a bigamous marriage where one person was married to two people. This type of marriage may be argued by one of the parties or even a third party, even after the death of one of the spouses.
It is presumed in this state that between the two marriages, the first is valid but the second is not. If you marry someone while you are already married to someone else who is still alive, you can be charged with a felony. Whether your marriage is based on bigamy, or is voidable and later annulled, a child born into such marriage is viewed as legitimate in the eyes of North Carolina law.
Usually, a voidable marriage is considered valid until such times as it is annulled. This type of marriage can only be attacked either by or on behalf of a party within the marriage. In some instances, if the capacity of a party to the marriage or age raises a concern, only the party seeking protection can argue that the marriage is invalid. There is an exception: a parent may annul the marriage of their child if the child is under 18 years of age and the marriage license is fraudulent.
A marriage can only be annulled in North Carolina if it falls into at least one of the below requirements:
- either of the people entering into the marriage is incapable or incompetent of contracting
- the parties are closer in relation than first cousins
- one or both people are already married
- the people are double first cousins
- either person is impotent when the marriage takes place
- one of the parties is under the age of 16
Grounds to Void a Marriage
Void marriages may never be valid. For instance, if a man marries a woman while he is already married to another woman, that second marriage is not valid, even if he divorces the first woman. On the other hand, a voidable marriage may be endorsed once the impediment is removed. For instance, if the grounds were that one of the spouses was too young but are now of marrying age.
The grounds under which marriages may be voidable include:
- instances where the spouses marrying are closely related
- either person is physically impotent at the time of the marriage
- either person is younger than 16 years of age
- If the woman alleges that she is pregnant before the marriage and the parties separate within 45 days of being married, the separation is continuous for 12 months, and a child is not born within 10 months of separation
It must be noted that alimony cannot be recovered if a marriage is annulled and this fact should be carefully considered if a couple is considering an annulment over an actual divorce.
While a marriage that involves someone who is under the age of 16 is voidable, there are a few exceptions. If a teenager between 14 and 16 years of age is pregnant, she may marry provided she gets a court order that grants her permission and the age at the time of marriage will not render the marriage voidable. If the child is dead at the time the annulment is filed, though, the marriage may be eligible for annulment.
What Are the Effects of an Annulment?
The effects of an annulment include:
- child support may be awarded if a marriage is annulled
- the marriage can be set aside as though it never even existed
- children will remain to be considered legitimate even if their parent’s marriage is annulled
- temporary alimony or post-separation support may be available but there is no permanent alimony if a marriage is annulled
- equitable distribution is not permitted since the property will be treated as though you were never married.
Make Sure You Have Legal Representation
If you think that your marriage may qualify for an annulment in Charlotte given the circumstances outlined in this article, it is important that you consult with an experienced Charlotte family law attorney at Remington & Dixon who will help you through the process. Our lawyers will apply their years of knowledge and experience to your unique circumstances to ensure you get the best resolution possible. Contact us today for an appointment.
Jennifer is a founding partner at Remington & Dixon, PLLC. Jennifer concentrates her practice in the areas of family law, wills & estates, unemployment benefits appeals, and traffic. At Elon University School of Law, Jennifer was the vice president of the Public Interest Law Society and a member of the Family Law Society. During law school, Jennifer interned at the Elon University School of Law Field Placement Clinic with Legal Aid of North Carolina where she represented clients in domestic violence court proceedings.