A couple recently shocked the online community when they announced the discovery that, after 10 years of marriage, they are actually brother and sister. In a short TikTok with very few details, the husband revealed they discovered they were siblings after 13 years together.
In the TikTok, the unnamed husband tells the camera he and his wife were married in 2011 and had their first child together. They had their second child in 2015. A short time later, they discovered they were brother and sister. Because the couple provides no further details, we can only assume they are half-siblings or there’s an adoption involved.
Isn’t marrying your sibling illegal?
Yes, it is. Per the North Carolina Judicial Branch, “The parties cannot be more closely related than first cousins, and cannot be double first cousins (for instance, the children of two sisters who married two brothers).”
Further, incest is a criminal act under the eyes of the law, punishable as a felony. NC Code 14-178 states: “A person commits the offense of incest if the person engages in carnal intercourse with the person’s (i) grandparent or grandchild, (ii) parent or child or stepchild or legally adopted child, (iii) brother or sister of the half or whole blood, or (iv) uncle, aunt, nephew, or niece.”
How on earth did this happen?
We would like to think that what happened to this couple is a one-in-a-million occurrence. However, we did a quick internet search and it simply wasn’t the case. Long-lost siblings ending up in accidental relationships happens more often than you might think. Just a few examples we found include:
- A Brazilian couple with a six-year-old child found out – live on the radio – they were actually brother and sister, who had been abandoned by their mother as children.
- A Reddit user revealed she found out her boyfriend of six years was actually her biological brother after taking a DNA test to find out more about her ancestry.
- A couple in Mississippi discovered they were biological twins after undergoing fertility testing in efforts to conceive a child. It turned out a filing error failed to notify their respective adoptive parents that each child had a twin.
- Two social media content creators recently revealed they believe they are half-siblings – but plan to continue their two-year relationship.
Although, as we mentioned earlier, incest is a felony, in some of these cases prosecution will likely not press charges due to the circumstances involved.
After this sort of shocking, and in many cases tragic, discovery, some couples may want to look into their options, including annulment.
Marriage annulment in North Carolina
All marriages between any two persons nearer of kin than first cousins, or between double first cousins, or between a male person under 16 years of age and any female, or between a female person under 16 years of age and any male, or between persons either of whom has a husband or wife living at the time of such marriage, or between persons either of whom is at the time physically impotent, or between persons either of whom is at the time incapable of contracting from want of will or understanding.
Our family law attorneys can answer any questions you might have about these sensitive situations.
Why it’s important to know your family
As you can see from all the examples we listed above, often these cases of siblings and half-siblings ending up in relationships stem from the fact that children don’t know the identity of their biological parents. In some circumstances this cannot be avoided, like in cases of closed adoption, assisted reproduction, child abandonment, or other issues.
Children have the right to know who their biological parents are, for both moral and genetic reasons. Rights to privacy vary widely, however, depending on the state and the circumstance.
If you’re an adoptee in North Carolina, you can go through the Department of Social Services and make a request through one of two processes:
A Confidential Intermediary process, which is:
Open to adult adoptees, biological parents, full and half-siblings of adult adoptees, adult family members of a deceased biological parent, adult family members of a deceased adoptee, and adoptive parents of children younger than 18 who are seeking updated family health information through child-placement agencies, known as Confidential Intermediaries.
Requesting non-identifying information, which means health history and background information. Per the Dept. of Social Services:
Background information about the birth family including age, nationality, ethnic background, race, religious preference, educational level, general physical description and any other general information may also be disclosed. Any health history of the birth family that could affect an adoptee’s mental or physical health may also be released. Names, addresses or any other information that could lead to the identity of birth family members will be redacted before being shared with the requester.
As you can see, requesting non-identifying information will not let you know if two people are potentially related – on paper.
More and more people are turning to DIY genealogy and ancestry kits to find out more about their families and backgrounds, which may also be leading to the surge in these discoveries. And, with the continued rise in blended and non-traditional families, these types of surprises may only continue.
We’re quite interested to see how privacy laws continue to evolve and will follow with interest. In the meantime, if you have questions about building your family, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our lawyers today. We’ll do our best to set your mind at ease and give you the answers you’re looking for. Talk to the family law attorneys at Epperson Law Group, PLLC today. To set up a consultation, call our offices or fill out our contact form. We work with individuals and families in Charlotte, Boone, Weddington, and Concord.