What is an Annulment?
Like divorce, an annulment is a way to end a marriage in South Carolina. However, it differs in one critical respect: an anulment terminates a valid marriage, whereas an annulment invalidates the marriage on the ground that it was never valid to begin with. Once a marriage is annulled, you can say that it never took place.
At Surasky Law Firm, we work with clients to help them end their marriages and move on with their lives. An annulment might be an option for you, depending on the circumstances. Contact our firm to talk with an Aiken, SC family law attorney. Below, we answer some of the most common questions regarding a South Carolina annulment.
How Quickly Must I Seek an Annulment in South Carolina?
There isn’t a deadline. Instead, you will need to prove a ground for why your marriage is not valid. If you can prove invalidity, then the marriage can be annulled regardless of its duration.
Can You Annul a Marriage Because of Fraud?
Yes. However, the fraud or misrepresentation must relate to an essential aspect of the marital relationship. South Carolina’s courts have not decided many cases awarding annulment on the ground of fraud. In one case, the court said that lying about your social standing or finances was not enough to qualify.
However, lying about the ability to have children or engage in sexual relations might render a marriage invalid and support annulment. Consult an attorney to determine whether you have sufficient proof of fraud.
Is Duress a Valid Ground for an Annulment?
You can’t be forced to get married, because then you are not marrying of your own free will. However, duress is more than "pressure” or feeling that your parents or the community expect you to get married.
The South Carolina Supreme Court once refused to annul a marriage for duress where the groom was physically restrained and driven against his will to the courthouse. He was even threatened with violence by the wife’s father and brothers. However, the man had several chances to escape and took none of them, so the Supreme Court said there was no duress.
Is Incest a Ground for Annulment?
South Carolina allows first cousins to get married, but you cannot be closer blood relations. You could seek an annulment if your spouse is a parent, aunt, uncle, sibling, half-sibling, grandparent, grandchild, niece, or nephew.
Is Domestic Abuse Grounds for an Annulment?
Being abused in your marriage is not a legal reason to annul a marriage. Of course, if you were abused before marriage, it might qualify as duress. We need to know the circumstances.
Can I Get an Annulment if the Marriage is Not Consummated?
Possibly. Technically, the ground is that you never cohabitated—meaning, you never lived together after getting married, not even for a single night. You should consult an attorney to determine whether you can claim this ground.
Is Bigamy a Valid Reason to Seek an Annulment?
If your spouse is still married to someone else, then the marriage is void. South Carolina does not recognize polygamy, so you can’t be validly married to someone who already has a spouse.
Of course, it’s not bigamy if your spouse was divorced prior to your marriage. It also isn’t bigamy if the former spouse disappeared at least 5 years ago, and there’s no evidence they are still living.
Is a Marriage Valid if One Spouse is Underage?
If one or both spouses are underage, the marriage is void. In South Carolina, you must be 18 to get married. However, you could marry at 16 or 17 with parental consent. In this case if either spouse is under 16, then you can get an annulment.
When is Mental Incapacity a Ground for Annulment?
Marriage requires that both spouses consent to the marriage. If even one spouse lacks capacity, then you can annul the marriage.
Incapacity can be something as simple as being intoxicated or high when getting married, or it might exist when someone is insane. Someone in a coma cannot get married, either.
Can You Annul a Marriage Because it is Same Sex?
You can no longer anul a marriage because it is same sex. The U.S. Supreme Court in Obergfell v. Hodges held that it was unconstitutional for states to prohibit same sex marriage. Of course, same-sex couples could seek an annulment on some other valid ground.
Procedure for Seeking an Annulment in South Carolina
You can seek an annulment if you have lived in South Carolina for at least a year. If you just moved here, then you might have to wait—or return to the state where you previously lived.
You can kick off the legal process by filing a Complaint for Annulment with the family court in the county where your spouse currently lives. This might not be the county where you currently reside.
The complaint contains important information, such as the day you were married, the location of your wedding, and the counties where you and your spouse live. You will also have to identify your ground for seeking an annulment.
If you have a child with your spouse, you can request child custody and support. A judge can also decide alimony, property division, and other issues.
Once you file, you will need to serve a copy of your paperwork on your spouse. The court will schedule a hearing for the judge, where you present evidence in support of your request for an annulment. Because you are bringing the suit, you have the burden of proving the marriage was not valid. If your spouse disagrees with you, then they can present evidence.
There is no jury trial for annulment cases. A judge will hear and assess all evidence before reaching a decision.
Contact Our Family Law Attorney for Assistance
Obtaining an annulment is a complicated process. You will benefit by scheduling a meeting with Surasky Law to discuss what evidence you will need or whether divorce is a better option.