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Can I Get an Annulment Instead of a Divorce?

Couples who have not been married very long may be wondering about annulment. Annulment sounds like a shortcut, an easier way to break off the marriage and start over. But annulment isn’t necessarily the easy path some imagine, and not everyone qualifies. Here is what you need to know about annulment in North Carolina.

What is an Annulment?

First, an annulment means the marriage is voided, as if it never existed at all. A District Court judge must issue a court order to annul a marriage.

Am I eligible for annulment?

You cannot get an annulment if you are both adults and have children. North Carolina law only allows annulment in a few circumstances. While many people assume the length of time married is a factor, it’s actually irrelevant. Annulment is allowed in the following cases.

  • Mental capacity. If one of the spouses lacks the mental capacity to understand marriage, it may be eligible. This mental capacity is at the time of the marriage, not later and is decided on a case-by-case basis.
  • Marriage between family members. A marriage between any two people “nearer in relationship than first cousins” is one reason for annulment. Those people might be a parent and child or two siblings, for example.
  • Impotence. If either party is medically diagnosed as impotent, the marriage can be annulled.
  • One party is underage. A marriage between a male or female under the age of 16 and a member of the opposite sex would be eligible to be annulled most of the time. However, if the marriage results in pregnancy or the birth of a child, it is no longer eligible to be annulled.
  • False pretense. This refers to a couple marrying under the false pretense that a female partner is pregnant.

How To Get an Annulment
Contact the Clerk of Court in your county to file for annulment. He or she will point you to the paperwork and other requirements. However, even if you feel you qualify based on the reasons listed above, there are exceptions in each case, so it’s best to speak to a divorce lawyer or family law attorney about annulment first.


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