In South Carolina, a couple can end a marriage through divorce or annulment. Many clients seek an annulment without fully understanding the difference in an annulment and a divorce. Some believe an annulment can be granted within a short time after the marriage. Their hope is that an annulment is easier, quicker, or cheaper than a divorce. However, annulments can only be granted on specific grounds, and divorce proceedings are often necessary.
Grounds for Annulments
An annulment can be granted if the marriage has not been consummated. In South Carolina, consummation of the marriage occurs upon intercourse OR residing together under the same roof. A family court judge could determine this cohabitation and resulting consummation, even if the couple stayed together for only one night. Given specific circumstances, a judge may not draw such a hard line.
A marriage could be annulled on the grounds of duress or fraud, such as one partner misleading the other as to a fact that is essential to the marriage. Essential facts would include known impotency/sterility, insanity/sanity, or inclination to have children. However, note that deceitful facts about character, social standing, or fortune cannot void a marriage.
A marriage can also be ended if the spouse is missing for five years or more.
Voidable marriages still require a court order, and can only be sought by a party to the marriage. The party seeking an annulment must file in a timely manner to avoid the defense of laches. The parties cannot continue cohabitation or consummation because this would ratify the marriage through condonation.
Certain marriages are void from the start for public policy reasons. Consider marriages between two married persons (bigamy), family members too closely related (consanguinity), those too young to marry (under 16, or under 18 without parental permission), or those lacking the mental competency to marry. No legal decree is needed to dissolve these marriages.
If none of the above circumstances apply, a divorce is necessary. Divorces in South Carolina can be granted on the following grounds:
- Physical cruelty
- Habitual Drunkenness (including drugs)
- Desertion for one-year or more
- Continuous separation for one-year or more (no-fault)
If you are seeking to dissolve your marriage, please contact Hyde Law Firm, PA at 864-804-6330 for a consultation today.