A wedding may be the happiest day of one’s life, but in some cases, the wedding day might not lead to a valid marriage. According to the Courts, and well-established in statutory and case law, certain marriages never even happened.

In Massachusetts, marriages of incest or bigamy are statutorily considered void without the need for any judgment.[1] Marriages of consanguinity or affinity are prohibited; the statutes, precisely, state the following:

No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, stepmother, grandfather’s wife, grandson’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, wife’s daughter, wife’s granddaughter, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter, father’s sister or mother’s sister.[2]

And:

No woman shall marry her father, grandfather, son, grandson, brother, stepfather,   grandmother’s husband, daughter’s husband, granddaughter’s husband, husband’s grandfather, husband’s son, husband’s grandson, brother’s son, sister’s son, father’s brother or mother’s brother.[3]

The Commonwealth also prohibits bigamy. There are certain exceptions: for instance, if a party enters the second marriage in good faith and with full belief that his or her first spouse was dead, or that the first marriage was dissolved by divorce or annulment, then the Court may hold that the second marriage is valid despite the existence of the first marriage.  [4]

In addition, a marriage may be considered voidable (meaning, either party may seek to invalidate it through annulment) for several other reasons, including:

  • Where one party was under the age of eighteen and entered the marriage without proper permission;
  • Where one party was insane at the time of entering the marriage; or
  • Where one party was suffering from “idiocy” at the time of entering the marriage.

The process of annulment allows the parties to request that the Court issue an order declaring the marriage invalid. If one party doubts or denies the validity of the marriage, that party (or a guardian or other person acting on behalf of the party) may commence an action of annulment, which is commenced in the same manner as a divorce action, in the Probate and Family Court. An annulment is different from a divorce: it is not dissolution of the marriage, but rather a declaration that no marriage exists between the parties.
There are still other reasons a party may seek to annul the marriage, including:

  • Fraud
  • Impotency
  • Duress, coercion, or other threats

What about children who are born during a marriage—is their status affected in any way? Yes. Statutorily, the issue born to a void marriage is considered to be born out of wedlock. [5] In a voidable marriage, the issue is considered “the legitimate issue of the parent who was capable of contracting the marriage,” [6] or in other words, the party who did not suffer from non-age, insanity, or “idiocy” is considered to be the legitimate parent of the child.

If you are seeking an annulment or have related questions, you may schedule a free consultation with our office. Call 978-225-9030 during regular business hours or complete a contact form here, and we will get back to you at our earliest opportunity.

[1] Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 207 s. 8

[2] Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 207 s. 1

[3] Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 207 s. 2

[4] Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 207 s. 6

[5] Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 207 s. 15

[6] Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 207 s. 16