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Massachusetts Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

Maybe the bloom is off your Bay State romance, and you are looking at the legal options for ending your marriage. Or maybe you’re wondering if your marriage was legal to begin with. States generally have strict rules that cover who can get married and how marriages can be dissolved. This is a brief summary of annulment and prohibited marriages in Massachusetts.

Annulments and Prohibited Marriage Laws

State prohibited marriage laws regulate the institution of marriage, which includes annulment and certain restrictions on who may get married. Annulment is the legal process of invalidating a marriage, a different process than divorce, which may be sought in Massachusetts if there is a previously un-dissolved marriage or for other reasons. Massachusetts annulment and prohibited marriage laws also ban marriage between ancestors or descendants, brother and sister, aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, and first cousins.

Annulment Laws in Massachusetts

The following chart highlights the main provisions of Massachusetts' annulment and prohibited marriage laws. See FindLaw's Marriage Law Overview section for additional articles and resources.

Code Sections

§207:1 to 8; 14 to 17; Ch. 207 §§1-8; 14-17

Grounds for Annulment

Invalid marriage

Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment


Legitimacy of Children

Issue of relationship in consanguinity or affinity is illegitimate; issue of marriage void for prior marriage of insanity, or nonage of parties is legitimate

Prohibited Marriages

Former spouse living (polygamous); marriage between ancestors or descendants, brother and sister, aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, first cousins; these provisions continue even after dissolution, by death or divorce, of marriage by which affinity was created unless divorce was given because original marriage was unlawful or void; individuals under 18, unless parental consent given

Same-Sex Marriage in Massachusetts

Same-sex marriages are permitted in Massachusetts. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the same laws that govern traditional marriages applied to same-sex couples as well, making Massachusetts the first state to issue marriage licenses to same-sex partners who wished to marry. The federal government brought other states in alignment with Massachusetts' position with the 2015 Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that denial of marriage to same-sex couples was unconstitutional. You can find more information on the latest legal developments by visiting FindLaw’s same-sex marriage section and list of states that allow same-sex marriage.

Related Resources for Massachusetts Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

Ending a marriage can be a difficult decision, especially if you are wondering if your marriage was legal to begin with. You can find more introductory information about this topic by visiting FindLaw’s sections on annulment, divorce, and Massachusetts family law. If you would like legal assistance with your case, you can contact an experienced Massachusetts divorce attorney in your area to schedule a consultation.

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