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Kentucky Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

An annulment is different from a divorce because with an annulment, it’s like the marriage didn’t happen at all. The parties to an annulment get a “do over.” However, you only have a certain period of time to ask for an annulment.

In comparison, a prohibited marriage is void from the beginning. The marriage was never lawful, so there’s no need to get an annulment or divorce. Prohibited marriages in Kentucky include having more than one wife or marriage to close family.

The following table explains the main Kentucky annulment and prohibited marriage laws.

Code Sections Kentucky Revised Statutes Title 402 – Marriage
Grounds for Annulment

Kentucky courts can declare any of the following marriages void:

  • Those obtained through force or fraud
  • When capacity was lacking due to mental illness, drugs, or alcohol
  • When physical capacity for marriage was lacking (impotence, inability to consummate marriage)
  • Underage marriages under two situations:
    • When the teen who got married was over 16, but under 18 years old and the marriage wasn’t ratified by cohabitation after turning 18 years old
    • The person was under 16 at the time of the marriage, the marriage wasn’t conducted with the court’s permission (as required), and the marriage wasn’t ratified by cohabitation after turning 18 years old
  • Any prohibited marriage (bigamous, incestuous, etc.)

However, marriages aren’t void due to the person solemnizing the wedding being ineligible to legally solemnize the marriage. This requires the marriage to be consummated with at least one of the parties believing the officiant had the appropriate authority and that they are legally married.

Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment

Each type of annulment must be completed within a certain time period, as listed below:

  • Underage marriages must be annulled before cohabitation after the 18th birthday
  • For no consent (force, fraud, etc.) or physical incapacity within 90 days of discovering the fraud or impotence
  • Prohibited marriages must be annulled no later than one year after discovering the marriage is prohibited, such as the person failed to divorce the prior spouse properly so it’s bigamous or your spouse was adopted and is actually your biological cousin
Legitimacy of Children Children born of prohibited or void marriages are legitimate. However, since illegitimate children are a constitutionally protected group now, it’s not as important in modern times as this previously was.
Prohibited Marriages Kentucky prohibits all of the following types of marriages:
  • First cousin marriages
  • Bigamous marriages
  • Marriages of minors without parental or court permission
  • Marriages of mentally disabled individuals
  • Those solemnized by a person who knew he or she didn’t have the authority to conduct the marriage of spouses who also knew he couldn’t solemnize their wedding
Same-Sex Marriage

Kentucky law was emphatically anti-same-sex marriage. Not only did Kentucky have a state constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between one man and one woman, the state also had a statute describing marriage as between one man and one woman. On top of that, there was a statute explicitly stating that marriage of same-sex individuals in other state or country are void in Kentucky and Kentucky courts won’t enforce any marriage or divorce rights.

The 6th district, which includes Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, upheld those states' same-sex marriage bans in November 2014, making Kentucky a late-holdout state. In June of 2015, however, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the landmark case Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court held that state bans on same-sex marriage and state refusals to acknowledge same-sex marriages lawfully entered into in other states violated the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of equal protection.

Unless Kentucky is able to construct a new statute or constitutional provision that manages to circumvent this ruling, same-sex marriage is no longer prohibited in the state.

Cousin Marriage Any marriage between persons more closely related than whole or half-blood than second cousins are prohibited as incestuous and void. However, Indiana across the Ohio river does permit first cousin marriages for older adults.

If you’re marriage is breaking up and you aren’t sure if you’re eligible for an annulment or a divorce, you should speak with an experienced Kentucky family law attorney. A good attorney will walk you through your options and their legal and financial consequences.

Note: Because state laws change constantly, it’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by conducting your own legal research or contacting a knowledgeable attorney.

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