Conditions for Marriage Annulment in North Carolina

By Travis Gray, J.D.

Conditions for Marriage Annulment in North Carolina

By Travis Gray, J.D.

In most cases, spouses that seek to bring their marriage to an end file for divorce. But some states, such as North Carolina, also allow annulments. Where a divorce brings a lawful marriage to its end, an annulment effectively declares that it never happened. The major drawback is that it can be difficult to obtain an annulment.

A couple sitting across from a suited man reading from a law book

Divorce vs. Annulment

While divorces and annulments both bring marriages to an end, they differ greatly in their purpose and their use. A divorce is intended to end a valid marriage and allow for the spouses to equitably distribute their shared property. Unlike with a divorce, an annulment changes both the spouse's current status as well as their past status. Annulment is appropriate when the marriage was void to begin with or if one party has the right to void it and chooses to do so.

Regardless of whether you seek to end a marriage through annulment or divorce, it is critical that you meet all the conditions and follow all the guidelines. The steps to file for a divorce or annulment can be complicated, and missing a required step could cost you time and money.

Void vs. Voidable

There is an important distinction between whether a marriage is void from the onset or merely voidable when pursuing an annulment. A void marriage is unlawful from inception, and North Carolina law and public policy bar it from ever being recognized. In North Carolina, the only type of marriages that are inherently void are bigamous ones. If you enter into a second marriage before legally ending the first, the second is not recognized under state law. And while it may be a prudent move to obtain one, in this case, a legal annulment is not technically necessary.

A voidable marriage, on the other hand, may lead to an annulment and can be voided by an order of the court, but it is not unlawful from the start. Some examples of conditions for voiding a marriage include spouses under the age of 16, impotence, and being based on a false pregnancy.

Grounds for Annulment in North Carolina

Generally speaking, there are a handful of conditions that render a marriage void or voidable. They include:

  • Bigamy
  • Incest
  • Underage without parental approval
  • Impotency
  • Incompetence
  • Fraud
  • Duress
  • Undue influence

There are some exceptions to the broad rules regarding North Carolina annulments described above. For example, a marriage is only voidable on a false pregnancy claim if the couple separates within 45 days of marriage and no child is born within 10 months of the date of separation.

Another common exception involves the marriage of someone less than 16 years of age. If the teenager is younger than 16 but at least 14 and pregnant, they can get married with a court order. But unlike most involving someone under 16, this marriage would not be voidable under North Carolina law.

Annulments are rare in North Carolina; the good news is that even if you don't meet the conditions for one, you still have the option of seeking a divorce.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.