Sometimes couples realize months or even just weeks into their marriage that it was a mistake. They may have gotten caught up in the romance. Maybe they got married on a whim when they weren’t completely sober. Other times, one or both spouses learn something about the other they didn’t know.
If one of these situations applies to you, you may be considering having the marriage annulled rather than getting a divorce. Can you do that?
Unlike a marriage that ends in divorce, a marriage that has been annulled basically never happened in the eyes of the law. That’s often, but not always, because it was prohibited and therefore invalid.
South Carolina law and annulment
State laws around annulment vary. Here in South Carolina, a marriage can be annulled if one or more of these conditions exists:
- At least one spouse was under the legal age to consent to marriage, which is 16.
- One or both spouses was already legally married to someone else. There may be an exception if a previous spouse has been absent and not locatable for at least five years.
- The marriage was never consummated.
- At least one spouse was mentally incompetent.
- The spouses are closely related by blood or marriage. Note that there are some exceptions, such as first cousins, who can legally marry in South Carolina.
While many annulments take place not long after the marriage, there is no statute of limitations in South Carolina. An annulment after a relatively long-term marriage, however, can have more complications. There may be child custody, support and property division issues that need to be worked out or settled by a judge.
If you’re considering an annulment rather than a divorce, it’s wise to seek legal advice so that you can learn more about the law surrounding both and work to protect your rights.