The regulation of marriage happens at the state level, with laws prohibiting certain types of marriage and determining when a marriage may be annulled (or invalidated). Under Pennsylvania annulment and prohibited marriage laws, grounds for annulment include the presence of an undissolved previous marriage and mental incompetence, among others.
A prohibited marriage, on the other hand, is void because the marriage was never lawful. Generally, there's no need to get an annulment or divorce in these cases. Commonly prohibited marriages typically include bigamous marriages, when a person tries to marry more than one spouse, or incestuous marriages, when a person tries to marry a relative.
This article provides a brief overview of annulment and prohibited marriages in the state of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws
The main provisions of Pennsylvania's annulment and prohibited marriage laws are listed in the table below, while a brief discussion follows. See FindLaw's Marriage Law section for related articles.
|Grounds for Annulment
When there has been no confirmation by cohabitation after marriage, a marriage shall be deemed void in the following circumstances under 23 Pa. C.S.A. § 3304:
- Where either party had an existing spouse at the time of marriage and the former marriage had not been annulled or had there been a divorce (except where the party obtained a decree of the presumed death of the former spouse)
- Where the parties of marriage are related within the degrees of consanguinity listed in the statute
- Where either party was incapable of consent by reason of insanity or serious mental disorder or otherwise lacked the capacity to consent or did not intend to consent to the marriage
- Where either party to a purported common-law marriage was under 18 years of age
|Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment
- No marriage license may be issued for applicants under the age of 16 unless the court decides that it is in the best interest of the applicant and authorizes the issuance of the license; no marriage license may be issued if either of the applicants is under age 18 without the consent of the custodial parent or guardian; also, no marriage license may be issued if either of the applicants is weak-minded, insane, or of an unsound mind, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or within the degrees of consanguinity listed in the statute (23 Pa. C.S.A. § 1304)
- All marriages within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity are voidable: between ancestor and descendant, aunt and nephew, brother and sister, uncle and niece, first cousins (23 Pa. C.S.A. § 1703)
- A married person is guilty of bigamy, a misdemeanor of the second degree, if they contract or purport to contract another marriage, unless at the time of the subsequent marriage: they believe the prior spouse is dead, they have been living apart for two consecutive years throughout which the prior spouse was not known by the actor to be alive or the court entered a judgment purporting to terminate or annul any prior disqualifying marriage, and the actor doesn't know that judgment to be invalid (18 Pa. C.S.A. § 4301)
||The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) established that bans on same-sex marriages violated the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause, legalizing same-sex marriages in every state, including Pennsylvania.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Pennsylvania Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws: Related Resources
State statutes regarding the marriage process can be complicated, whether you're wondering if you can get married or whether your existing marriage is legal to begin with. You can find additional articles and resources in FindLaw's sections on Annulment, Divorce, and Pennsylvania Family Laws.
Next Steps: Speak to a Family Law Attorney
An experienced attorney can view the specific facts of your separation and give legal advice using the relevant laws of your state. If you would like to know more about Pennsylvania's annulment laws or marriage requirements and would like to know if you qualify for an annulment or divorce, there are many divorce attorneys throughout Pennsylvania who may be able to help.