In North Carolina, as in most states, certain couples facing very specific circumstances may be able to seek a legal annulment rather than a divorce. While annulments are far less common, and apply in far fewer situations than a divorce, they are often the better choice when a couple qualifies. Learning about the differences between a divorce and an annulment in North Carolina is an important place to start, but the best thing you can do to know whether or not your situation qualifies is speak with an experienced family law attorney like those at the NC Adoption Law Center.
The main difference between a divorce and an annulment is that when all is said and done, the divorce is a court order that ends a valid marriage and an annulment declares that a marriage never existed. The main differences are:
- Permanent Alimony (Spousal Support) – Perpetual spousal support is not an option when a couple gets an annulment. There can be some post-separation support paid, but it will typically be very limited and will always have a set end date.
- Equitable Distribution of Property – The courts won't issue an order regarding the distribution of property, which means you'll need to work out any division of assets outside of court (if applicable).
- No Marriage – Legally speaking, after an annulment you can say that you were never married. On all legal documents, you would be considered to have never been married before, during, and after your annulled marriage.
Who Qualifies for an Annulment?
In almost all cases, if you qualify for an annulment, it is the best option to pursue. Of course, you will want to talk to your attorney to see what course of action is best for your unique situation. In North Carolina, if you meet one or more of the following requirements, your marriage is considered voidable and can be annulled:
- Incest – If the husband and wife are discovered to be closer than first cousins.
- False Pretenses – If a couple gets married with the husband under the belief that the wife was pregnant, but then a separation occurs within 45 days and no child is born (within 10 months of the separation).
- Impotence – If one or both of the spouses is physically impotent when the marriage began. Impotence must be diagnosed by a doctor.
- Mental Incapacity – If one or both of the spouses is mentally incapable of entering a marriage contract.
- Age – If one or both spouses is under the age of 16 when the marriage began.
Discussing Your Options
If you want your marriage to be dissolved or even legally treated as if it never happened in the first place, divorce and annulment are really your only options. Legal separation is also a possibility, but that is a temporary solution that simply dictates the terms of a separation before an actual divorce can be implemented. Another thing to keep in mind is that many religious institutions offer annulments, but those are entirely separate from a legal annulment. Even if your church has annulled your marriage, you still need to seek either an annulment or a divorce through the civil courts. To discover what options are available to you, and begin the process, please contact NC Adoption Law Center—A Family Law Firm today.