When most people think of annulling a marriage they immediately think a Vegas wedding and obtaining the annulment within a certain period of time after the marriage.* In actuality, an annulment in North Carolina is much different.
WHAT IS AN ANNULMENT?
In North Carolina, an annulment is a voidable marriage. It is not automatically void, like a bigamous marriage. A bigamous marriage is a marriage that takes place between a couple where one party is already legally married. The second marriage is automatically invalid and is not recognized in North Carolina because one of the parties was already married when the second marriage took place.
SO, WHAT CRITERIA MUST BE MET FOR A MARRIAGE TO BE ANNULLED?
North Carolina General Statute section 51-3 set the criteria for annulments in North Carolina. There are five reasons that allow for an annulment in this state.
1. Married to a family member nearer in relationship than first cousin, or between double first cousins.
2. If one party is underage (under 16 is considered underage for this portion of the statute). Examples are a marriage between a male person under 16 years of age and any female, or between a female person under 16 years of age and any male.
3. If one of the parties is impotent at the time of marriage and the impotency is medically diagnosed by a doctor.
4. If one of the parties lacks the mental capacity to understand what marriage entails. The mental capacity has to be an issue at the time of the marriage. Doesn't count if the mental issue arises after the marriage has occurred.
5. If one of the parties commits to the marriage under false pretenses. For instance, a party tells their spouse that a baby is on the way when it turns out to be untrue. *Under this portion of the statute the parties must be separated less than 45 days for an annulment to be proper under this part of the statute. If separation is less than 45 days after the marriage, a party can file for an annulment; however, the year long separation time period would still be applicable.
As you can tell, there is no time requirement. If you are legally married for a week, and you do not meet any of the criteria listed in NCGS 51-3, then you have to adhere to the year long separation period in order to get a divorce. More on that here.
*As always, nothing in this blog post is intended to establish an attorney-client relationship or is intended to be construed as legal advice.