Hopefully, the topics that have been addressed by the legal corner so far have been helpful to our readers. For the next couple of weeks we will address various legal topics that tend to affect our families. Some of these topics will include matters that involve marriage, child custody, and child support. This week will begin with legal marriages.
In North Carolina, marriage is considered a legal contract entered into between two individuals, and therefore is governed by state laws. Just like with any contract, in order for it to be valid certain requirements have to be met. North Carolina requires the following factors to be established: age, competency, family relationship, marital status.
An individual must have reached a certain age in order to have the ability to legally enter into a contract. In North Carolina a minor has reached the age of majority when he or she turns 18 years old. Thus, in order to enter into a valid marriage a person must be at least 18 years old. However, there are a couple of exceptions to this rule.
A minor child between the age of 16 and 17 is able to enter into a marriage if he or she has written permission from a parent or guardian who has both legal and physical custody. A minor child between the ages of 14 and 15 may lawfully get married if the child is a female and is currently pregnant or has already given birth, and intends on marrying the father of her child.
A male between the ages of 14 and 15 may lawfully get married if he intends on marrying the mother of his born or unborn child. Still minors between the ages of 14 and 15 are required to have approval from a district court before entering into the marriage. Minor children under the age of 14 years old are unable to legally get married in North Carolina. If a minor enters a marriage in North Carolina without meeting the necessary requirements, the marriage is not valid and is therefore voidable and can be annulled.
Another requirement for entering into a valid contract includes the individual having the competency or mental capacity to understand the nature of the agreement. This same concept also applies to entering into a marriage, both individuals must have the mental ability or capacity to consent to the marriage. An individual’s mental capacity at the time of the marriage ceremony will determine if the marriage is valid or invalid. This means if a party is highly inebriated at the time of the marital ceremony, he or she could lack the mental capacity to enter into a valid marriage.
Additionally, some state laws place limits on family relationships between individuals who intend to marry. North Carolina laws do not allow individuals within the same immediate family to be lawfully married. This means first cousins are able to get married, but persons who are closer in kin than first cousins are not able to enter into a valid marriage in North Carolina.
Moreover, an individual must be unmarried in order to enter into a valid marriage in North Carolina. Thus, a marriage is absolutely void if one of the parties to the marriage is legally married to another person. In cases where marriage are void or voidable, one of the parties to the marriage have a right to petition the court to have the marriage annulled or cancelled. In some cases, a parent or guardian has a right to petition to the court to annul a marriage if age or mental capacity is in question.
Please remember that this information is only meant to inform our readers. This article does not include all of the detailed laws and requirements related to lawful marriages. If you have any additional questions about the North Carolina marriage requirements or how to annual a marriage please consult an attorney. As always: be informed, be prepared.
Bellonora McCallum is an attorney at the McCallum Law Firm, PLLC, in Rockingham and Laurinburg. Reach her at 910-730-4064 or visit www.mccallumlawfirm.com