Certain marriages are prohibited by law in South Carolina. Couples that enter into these illegal relationships can petition the court at any time for an annulment to declare the marriage void. Unlike divorce, annulments do not involve the resolution of often complex and contested spousal support and property matters. Instead, the marriage is erased and the parties are restored to a legal and financial position as if the relationship never existed.
Failure to Consummate
To obtain an annulment in South Carolina, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state. After residency is established, you must prove to the court that your marriage is illegal and should not have been granted. One reason, recognized by state law, applies if you and your spouse never had sexual relations as a married couple and never lived together. This is not to be confused with mere separation as part of divorce; it is instead reserved for only those cases when the parties clearly had no intention of ever living as a married couple. In fact, simply going on a honeymoon might be sufficient evidence to deny an annulment based on failure to consummate.
An annulment may also be granted in South Carolina if the parties failed to meet the technical requirements for marriage. Because South Carolina law prohibits bigamy, if a marriage was granted while one party was still married, the second marriage is deemed void and an annulment is proper. A limited exception applies if one party was missing for at least five years and the other party remarries under the mistaken assumption that the absent spouse is dead. Additional grounds for annulment are based on age and the parties' degree of blood relationship. In South Carolina, it is illegal for children under the age of 16 to consent to marriage, and parents, grandparents and siblings are not allowed to marry each other. For these types of relationships, regardless of when the annulment is brought, the marriage will be declared void.
Medical and Psychological Conditions
South Carolina will also grant an annulment based on the medical and psychological condition of a spouse. Both impotency and testing positive for a sexually transmitted disease will invalidate a marriage, provided those conditions are substantiated by medical testimony. Further, because the marriage contract requires the parties to be able to voluntarily consent to the relationship, a divorce will be declared void if you can prove that your spouse is mentally incompetent.
Fraud and Duress
Additional grounds for annulment in South Carolina are based on fraud and duress. Fraud occurs when one spouse tricks you into a marriage based on false pretenses. An example might be a spouse knowingly lying about the paternity of a child in order to convince someone other than the biological father to enter into the marriage relationship. Duress exists if circumstances are so coercive that one spouse feels compelled to marry against his or her will. An example might be extreme pressure from family members to marry after becoming pregnant.