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North Carolina Annulments
Annulments in North Carolina

Annulment is a civil court process that declares a marriage never existed. Many people think an annulment is an easier or quicker alternative to a divorce; this is not so. Like most jurisdictions, North Carolina grants annulments in very limited situations.

The law governing annulments in North Carolina can be found in North Carolina Gen. Stat. 51-3, 51-4, and 50-11.1.


Annulment in North Carolina terminates two types of invalid marriages - void marriages and voidable marriages.

In North Carolina, bigamy creates the only absolutely void marriage. This happens when one spouse was already legally married to another person. A bigamous marriage is never made valid, and in North Carolina, it can even be challenged after the death of one of the spouses. A bigamous marriage is automatically void and an annulment is not legally required; however, even in this situation, a person should still seek a court order annulling it.

A voidable marriage, by comparison, includes those in these situations:

  • Incest, which means the man and woman are closer than first cousins, such as double first cousins, uncle/niece, siblings;
  • “False pretenses,” which, for example, means the husband and wife got married believing the wife was pregnant, but then separated within 45 days of the marriage and no child was born within 10 months of the separation;
  • Either spouse was physically impotent at the time of the marriage (the impotence must be diagnosed by a doctor);
  • Either spouse was “not of sound mind” and incapable of entering a contract at the time of the marriage; or
  • One of the spouses was under the age of 16 at the time of the marriage unless there was a court order allowing marriage between ages 14-16 when the woman is pregnant.

Voidable marriages can be made legal or ratified by the actions of the partners. If the husband and wife continue to cohabit in a voidable marriage and then have a child together, their marriage may become valid.

For children of an annulled marriage, the former partners may seek court orders on child custody, visitation and child support.

Courts may award what is called post-separation support, which are payments to one spouse made by the other spouse, and attorneys’ fees. However, permanent alimony and equitable distribution of martial property are not available in an annulment.


To get an annulment, one spouse will file a petition with the court in the county where the husband or wife lives. The petitioner must prove that the marriage is either void or voidable. The petitioner appears at a scheduled hearing and answers any questions the judge has. The judge then makes a decision as to whether the marriage is invalid.

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