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Each state has individual laws to address what it considers to be legal and valid marriages, including age requirements, capacity to marry, and family relationship (i.e., how closely people may be related and still marry). Most of the time, marriages end with death of a party or a divorce. A divorce severs the legal relationship between the parties, freeing each party to remarry if he or she decides to do so. An annulment is the legal recognition that a marriage is void.  Unlike divorce, where a marriage is deemed to have ended and terminated, an annulment is as though the marriage is erased. 

If a marriage is annulled, in the eyes of the law, the people were never married in the first place but there are certain protections to children born to parties whose marriage is later found to be a void marriage. Annulments are very rare in the State of North Carolina.  There are several grounds that allow a decree of annulment in this state, but they are extremely narrow.  For instance, if the family relationship between spouses is closer than first cousins, the marriage will be declared void.  In other words, family members who are first cousins, who share the same grandparents, may legally marry in the State of North Carolina.  People mistakenly believe a very short marriage or the failure to consummate the marriage will give them the right to an annulment but it does not in this state.

The most frequent occasion for an annulment in our state is bigamy, the act of marring another person while still married to the first person.  This can easily happen by mistake when a spouse fails to confirm the divorce decree was actually entered.  If one spouse sues for the divorce, but fails to follow through after serving the other spouse with the court documents, the divorce might not have been entered because neither spouse finished the lawsuit or followed up to be sure it was completed.  This is another good reason people served with a divorce lawsuit should immediately contact an attorney.

Say It Ain’t So: Void and Voidable Marriages

What About Common Law Marriage?

What’s Required for a Valid Marriage?

What About Polygamy and Bigamy?

Too Close For Comfort: The Legal Consequences of Incest



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