There are certain situations where a marriage isn’t all that it seemed, and what may have looked like a valid marriage might be null and void, or at the very least voidable due to circumstances that existed at the time the marriage was made. Marriage is a legally binding contract, and like any other contract, both parties need to know what they are getting into, must be willingly participating in the marriage, and must have fully bargained to be part of the marriage.
What Is Annulment?
If certain circumstances existed at the outset of the marriage (these circumstances are discussed below), then the marriage could be declared legally null and void – like it never happened in the first place – by the state family court with an annulment. The couple does not have to go through divorce proceedings if the marriage is annulled because an annulment effectively restores the couple to their status before the marriage occurred. As such, they are not entitled to benefits or property division the way that divorcing couples are.
Limited Circumstances for Obtaining An Annulment
When something is fundamentally wrong with the marriage from its very inception, the couple can seek an annulment of the marriage contract. Usually, annulments are used when the marriage was never valid in the first place, meaning that it could never have been legally official that the couple was married. Some of these limited circumstances for annulment include:
- One or Both Parties Were Too Young. The individuals who are getting married must be legally old enough to do so, and if they are not old enough, they must obtain the appropriate parental authorization (consent) in order to be wed. If one or both parties is under age, the marriage contract is invalid.
- One Party Is Already Married to Another. If one of the parties to the marriage contract is already married to someone else, by marrying yet another person, he or she is committing bigamy, which is illegal. Bigamy makes the marriage void.
- Incapable of Agreeing to The Marriage Due To Lack of Mental Capacity. Only people who are mentally competent can enter marriage contracts. If one party to a marriage lacks the mental capacity to get married, or has a recognized mental incapacity, he or she is incapable of consenting to a marriage. Lack of mental capacity can void the marriage.
- Coaxed Into The Marriage by Fraud. When one party to the marriage commits fraud to convince the other party to enter the marriage, the marriage can be annulled because one party was conned into an agreement. In order to obtain an annulment on this ground, the fraud must be a significant factor of why the marriage occurred.
- Marriage Resulting From Duress. Both parties have to want to get married. If one party to the marriage is forced into it, or is threatened into the marriage contract, then the marriage can be void.
- The Marriage Cannot Be Consummated. This ground for annulment is slightly different from the others in that it requires very specific circumstances to exist in the marriage. Even if the parties wanted to get married, but didn’t know that they would be unable to consummate the marriage, the couple can have their marriage annulled. This scenario can also result if one party failed to inform the other party before the marriage occurred that he or she would be unable to consummate the marriage – although this scenario also intertwines with fraud to a certain extent.
Contacting A South Carolina Family Law Attorney
If you believe that you are eligible to have your marriage annulled and you want to do so, feel free to contact the family law attorneys at Sarji Law Firm, LLC. Our professionals are familiar with the annulment process and will be able to guide you through it. Please call us today at 843-323-4341.