Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What does a “No-Fault’ divorce mean in NC?”
When you feel that your marriage was a mistake, you may want to end the union. Rather than go through the divorce process, you may be able to obtain an annulment. An annulment is a civil legal process that ends the marriage and makes it as though the union did not happen. An annulment is not the same as a religious annulment, which does not legally end the marriage. There are a number of reasons that you may seek an annulment, but there are also limited reasons that an annulment may be granted. The first step in the process is to determine whether your circumstances qualify for annulment in North Carolina.
It is helpful to understand annulment. An annulment is a legal action that makes a marriage null and void from the beginning. Generally, an annulment may only be available in situations in which the marriage was not valid or voidable at the time of the union. In North Carolina, there are several grounds for annulment. An annulment differs from a divorce in two main ways. With an annulment, spousal support does not come into play because the marriage never existed. Likewise, a couple’s property is not subject to equitable distribution with annulment as it is with divorce.
Grounds for Annulment
North Carolina has seven grounds for annulment. You must meet the requirements for one of these seven grounds in order to request an annulment. If you do not meet the criteria for annulment, you can end your marriage through a standard divorce proceeding.
- Incest – A marriage between relations closer than first cousins is not allowed.
- Bigamy – If one or both parties were already legally married at the time of this marriage, the union is not valid.
- Under age – When one or both parties were below the legal age to marry, the marriage is not valid.
- Impotence – When a partner is unable to perform sexually due to a medical condition, the union can be annulled.
- Lack of consent – If you did not give consent freely to the marriage it may be annulled. Some examples include getting married under duress, being tricked, or due to incapacity.
- Mental illness – When one party has mental illness that he or she did not reveal to the other before the marriage, the union may be void.
- Mistaken belief of pregnancy – If a couple weds because they thought the woman was pregnant, they can seek annulment if there was no pregnancy.
Seeking an Annulment
An annulment is a legal process that begins with a lawsuit. The person requesting the annulment must file a lawsuit to request annulment. Before an annulment can be considered, you must make sure that you meet one of the criteria. If not, you should consider seeking a divorce instead. The spouse who files the lawsuit must verify to the court that the marriage is void or voidable. A judge will review the testimony and if it meets the criteria, will grant an annulment. If an annulment is granted, it will be as if the marriage never existed.
If you are considering an annulment, we can provide legal guidance. Get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.
The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and one Child Welfare Law specialist, as well as several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.
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