Annulment Law in South Carolina

South Carolina Case Law on Annulment

Annulment and Bigamy

Because the property agreement was adopted by the family court in response to Wife's petition for annulment and decree of separate support and maintenance, we find Husband's argument to be without merit. It has long been established that S.C.Code Ann. § 20-7-420(6) (1976 & Supp.2003) grants the family court exclusive jurisdiction over annulment proceedings. White v. White, 283 S.C. 348, 349, 323 S.E.2d 521, 522 (1984). Furthermore, this jurisdiction extends, not just to the issue of the actual annulment, but to "all matters in an annulment action, as in a divorce proceeding," including the equitable distribution of property. Id., 283 S.C. at 350, 323 S.E.2d at 522; see also S.C.Code Ann. § 20-7-420(30) (1976 & Supp.2003) (granting the family court exclusive jurisdiction "to hear and determine any questions of support, custody, separation, or any other matter over which the court has jurisdiction.").

There is no legal distinction between a marriage which is annulled and one terminated by reason of bigamy, as they are both void ab initio, or "from the inception." Splawn v. Splawn, 311 S.C. 423, 425, 429 S.E.2d 805, 806 (1993). In fact, the South Carolina Supreme Court has specifically held the family court has subject matter jurisdiction to equitably distribute property in a bigamous marriage. Id., 311 S.C. at 424, 429 S.E.2d at 806. Rodman v Rodman 361 S.C. 291 (2004).

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Annulment for Fraud

Under South Carolina Code of Laws § 20-1-530, a party seeking an annulment on grounds other than legal incompetence to contract marriage must show (1) lack of legal consent or that the marriage was not a valid contract and (2) no cohabitation between the parties.

First, Husband claims the marriage contract was invalid because he was induced by fraud to marry Wife. He alleges Wife did not reveal before marriage the psychological problems which resulted in her sexual incapacity. False representations regarding one's character, social standing, or fortune do not constitute fraud sufficient to annul a marriage. Jakar v. Jakar, 113 S.C. 295, 102 S.E. 337 (1920). Husband claims, however, sexual capacity qualifies as a ground for annulment under Jakar as "something essential to the marriage relation ... making impossible the performance of the duties and obligations of that relation." 102 S.E. at 339.

We need not decide whether concealment of a known sexual dysfunction is fraud sufficient to justify an annulment. We conclude the record in this case does not support a factual finding Wife concealed an incapacity for sexual relations.

The parties shared a bed on many occasions during their five-year courtship but agreed they would not engage in premarital sex. Wife testified she told Husband about her emotional problems before their marriage. Further, she testified Husband knew about her problem with sexual intercourse from an "engaged encounter" they attended before they married. Wife was never diagnosed or treated for psychological problems until 1987, two years after the parties married. Husband introduced no evidence Wife knew the extent of her sexual problems before the marriage. He admits, in fact, she did not know until she began treatment with the psychiatrist in 1987 after the parties had tried and failed to engage in sexual intercourse.

The court denied the annulment since the parties had lived together and the wife did not know of her problem until after the marriage. Edm v. Tam 307 S.C. 471 (1992).



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