How to Annul a Marriage in South Carolina

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One of the most commonly asked questions of some newly married couples is how to get an annulment in South Carolina. Annulment is not simply another way of getting a divorce; rather, one must be able to argue specific legal grounds before a marriage can be annulled. Spouses should also understand the consequences of annulment in South Carolina. If you have questions about this legal process or you are ready to move forward with it, retaining an experienced Greenville family law attorney is essential. Attorney Angela Frazier can help.

What Is an Annulment?

An annulment is a court declaration that a marriage is null and void from the beginning. This is not the same thing as a divorce, which terminates an existing, valid marriage between two spouses. In the eyes of the law, an annulment declares that the marriage never even existed.

Either spouse whose marriage has been annulled can legally and honestly state that they were never married in the first place.

Spouses may seek an annulment to avoid either the legal consequences of marriage or performing obligations associated with marriage. An annulment declares that the marriage was invalid but still allows the couple to petition the court to address matters such as child custody and equitable distribution.

How Do I Get an Annulment in South Carolina?

Annulment requires filing a complaint in the local family court where the other spouse lives. You must have lived in South Carolina for at least one year and include the following information in your complaint:

  • Date of marriage
  • The location (city, county, and state) where your marriage occurred
  • The county in which you currently reside
  • The county in which your spouse currently resides
  • The names and birthdates of any children born of the marriage
  • The legal grounds for your annulment (see below)
  • Preferences as to whether the court should decide child custody, child support, spousal support, or marital property division once the annulment is granted

The other spouse must be served a copy of the complaint for annulment in accordance with the rules of civil procedure. A hearing will then be scheduled where you both present evidence supporting grounds for annulment. If the judge is convinced that grounds exist, the annulment will be granted.

Grounds for Annulment in South Carolina

To request marriage annulment, South Carolina law requires that a spouse set forth specific legal grounds, which include:


Fraud occurs when the husband or wife has lied or misled the other party about something that is integral to the marriage relationship. Lying about one’s ability to bear children, about impotence, or about one’s sanity are classic examples of fraud in the annulment context.

South Carolina courts have held that a spouse’s lies about his or her social standing or wealth are insufficient because they are not integral to the marriage. Entering into a marriage while knowing about a certain condition (e.g. impotence) makes it more difficult to assert fraud.


This requires proof of unlawful threats or coercion that caused a spouse to get married when they otherwise would not have done so. A spouse using this ground must demonstrate that he or she had a reasonable fear for their life or bodily injury. If the spouse who argues duress had the chance to avoid the marriage but entered into it anyway, the duress claim will likely not succeed.


Only individuals who are not closely related to each other can legally marry in South Carolina.

Incest occurs when the spouses are of close relations such as:

  • Parents and stepparents
  • Grandparents and step-grandparents
  • Children or grandchildren (including biologically or by adoption or marriage)
  • Aunts and uncles


Bigamy exists when a person who gets married already has another living spouse. If someone is already currently married and that marriage has not been terminated through divorce or death, they cannot get married to another person. Even if the bigamous spouse failed to disclose the preexisting marriage, the second marriage is automatically void.

Exceptions are where:

  • The first spouse has been absent for at least five years and the allegedly bigamous spouse doesn’t know if he or she is alive
  • The first marriage has been declared void

Mental incapacity

Parties to a marriage must be able to enter into their union freely and of their own volition. If a spouse is shown to be mentally deficient, this could undermine the validity of the marriage.

Someone who was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of marriage also might not have had the requisite mental capacity to understand the nature and consequences of what they were doing.

Underage marriage

An individual who is age 18 or older can generally get married. South Carolina law also allows a person as young as 16 to marry with the parent’s consent. But the marriage can be annulled if either party to it was under age 18 and didn’t have the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian. Another ground is if either spouse was younger than 16 at the time of marriage.

No consummation or cohabitation

A marriage is consummated when the spouses engage in sexual relations. Consummation is viewed as the result of cohabitation or living together. So if the parties married and never cohabitated as spouses, they could be granted an annulment. However, spending even one night together as spouses will likely undermine this argument.

How Long After Marriage Can You Get an Annulment?

There is no minimum time requirement to obtain an annulment in South Carolina. As long as sufficient grounds exist, the marriage can be annulled regardless of how long it has lasted.

What Are the Effects and Consequences of an Annulment?

Although an annulment voids the marriage, the court can still decide issues that divorcing spouses must resolve, including child custody and property division. A spouse whose marriage has been annulled has the option to keep the other spouse’s last name or change back to their original name.

Children who are born of an annulled marriage are considered legitimate, provided that one parent entered into the marriage in good faith. Legitimacy is an important matter because it allows the child to inherit and claim financial support from the parents.

Get Help From a South Carolina Family Law Attorney at Elliott Frazier

To learn more about how to get an annulment in South Carolina, let our experienced team assist you. Call Elliott Frazier — Family, Personal Injury, & Car Accident Attorneys, LLC. We can schedule your initial consultation today.

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