An annulment declares that the marriage never occurred because of some defect. Defective marriages may be either void or voidable. In a void marriage, the circumstances are such that the marriage could never have come into being. A voidable marriage is recognized under the law as a valid marriage until an action is brought to prove it invalid.
Annulments may be granted where the requirements for establishing either a statutory law marriage or a common law marriage have not been met.
A ground for obtaining an annulment is lack of cohabitation (living together as husband and wife). If the marriage has not been consummated by cohabitation of the parties, the Court may declare such contract void for want of consent of either of the contracting parties or for any other reason that proves that the agreement of the parties to be married was not a valid contract.
Even if the parties have cohabitated as husband and wife, the Court may grant an annulment if the marriage is bigamous (one of the parties was already married to someone else) or incestuous (the parties are related to closely by blood or marriage as provided by South Carolina Law).
Duress is another ground for annulment. Threats or violence constituting duress, however, they must be of such a nature as to inspire a great fear of bodily harm in a person of ordinary firmness and it must dominate throughout the transaction to such an extent that the injured party could not and did not act as a free agent.
A marriage procured by certain kinds of fraud can also be annulled, unless the marriage has been consummated by cohabitation. The fraud must involve matters which constitute the essentials of the marriage relationship. The misrepresentations requisite for an annulment on the grounds of fraud might include fraudulent representations about sanity (but not about being treated for mental illness), impotency, sterility, or an inclination to have children or not to have children contrary to the premarital understanding. Misrepresentation about one party’s character, social standing or fortune is not grounds for annulment.