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South Carolina Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

When is a marriage not a marriage? When it was never a marriage in the first place. Getting a civil annulment means the marriage never existed, whether it was void for being a prohibited marriage or was just never consummated. This is distinct from a divorce, where the marriage existed and the property must be divided according to state laws for divorce. Prohibited marriages are marriages that are void or invalid because the parties can't get married under South Carolina law. Read on to learn more about annulment and prohibited marriages in South Carolina.

Civil Annulments and Prohibited Marriages in South Carolina

The following table outlines the laws in South Carolina that are related to civil annulments and prohibited marriages.

Grounds for Annulment

If the marriage was invalid, then a person has a reason or grounds for an annulment. The marriage could be invalid because:
  • It was never consummated (the two never lived together)
  • One of the spouses was already married (bigamy)
  • One of the parties was under 16 and wasn't legally able to get married

Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment

As long as the requirements of an annulment are met, there's no statute of limitations (time limit) for filing an annulment.

Legitimacy of Children

Two people who enter into a bigamous marriage in good faith have legitimate children. Under these circumstances, good faith is defined as the parties not realizing that their marriage was bigamous and therefore void.

Prohibited Marriage

South Carolina prohibits several different types of marriages. Examples of marriages that are prohibited by law in the state are as follows:
  • If parties to the marriage are mentally incompetent, their marriage is considered legally invalid.
  • Under § 16-15-20, incestuous marriages are prohibited. There are certain exceptions for certain types of cousins. These include first cousins and cousins related more distantly than first cousins.
  • Under § 20-1-80, bigamous marriages are prohibited. However, if the former spouse has been absent or not  heard from in five or more years, this restriction is no longer observed or enforced.

Same-Sex Marriage

  • In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges clearly stated that state bans on same-sex marriage violate the Fourteenth Amendment, effectively closing the book on the discussion for now.
  • On December 13, 2022, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act. It strengthened protections for same-sex marriage by codifying laws that protect for this type of marriage.

Cousin Marriage

In South Carolina, first cousins can marry with no restrictions.

Common Law Marriage

As a result of a case called Stone v. Thompson, South Carolina abolished common law marriages. For more information about common law marriages, consider reviewing FindLaw's

"What is Common Law Marriage?"

If you want to get an annulment, divorce, or are curious about the validity of your marriage, including common law marriage possibilities, you should consult with an experienced South Carolina family law attorney.

Note: As state laws change frequently, it's important to confirm the accuracy of the laws you are researching by either conducting your own research or contacting an attorney.

Research the Law

Consider reviewing the following resources for more information about laws in South Carolina, including those related to civil annulments and prohibited marriages:

  • At South Carolina Law, you'll find links to all laws in the state, including those related to civil annulments and prohibited marriages.
  • At Official State Codes, you'll find links to all laws in every state, including those of South Carolina.

Need More Help? Contact an Attorney

If you're considering a civil annulment or are in a marriage that is legally invalid, consider contacting a qualified family law attorney near you. They can assist you with all legal matters related to civil annulments and legally invalid marriages.

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