Annulment is a judicial decree or judgment that a marriage is void. The effect of an annulment is to establish that the marital status never existed. Annulment and divorce are fundamentally different in that an annulment renders a marriage void from the beginning, while divorce terminates the marriage as of the date of the entry of the divorce judgment. Generally, an annulment proceeding is for causes for avoidance of the marriage existing at the time of the marriage, whereas a divorce is for causes arising after the marriage is in existence.

For a marriage that takes place in North Carolina to be valid, there must be: (1) capable parties; and, (2) solemnization by a ceremony performed by or before persons legally authorized to solemnize the rite of matrimony. As a general rule, North Carolina recognizes any marriage that is valid in the place where it is solemnized. However, North Carolina does not recognize same-sex marriages. North Carolina also does not recognize common law marriage in North Carolina, but it does recognize valid common law marriages occurring in other states.


The appellate courts in North Carolina have recognized the following grounds for annulment:

  • Bigamy (either party already married)
  • Improper relationship (incestuous relations)
  • Impotency at the time of marriage
  • Being underage without proper authorization
  • Incompetence or insanity
  • Fraud
  • Duress
  • Undue influence

The material facts in every complaint seeking an annulment are deemed denied by the defendant, even if the defendant fails to serve a responsive pleading. The facts to establish an annulment must be found by a judge or jury. The burden of proving the invalidity of a marriage is upon the party attacking the validity of the marriage.

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