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. 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.
||Tit. 23 §§1304, 1704, 3304-3305, 5102
|Grounds for Annulment
||Previous marriage undissolved; within consanguinity lines prohibited; lacked capacity by insanity or serious mental disorder or did not intend to consent; underage
|Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment
||Underage or under the influence: Within 60 days of marriage; incestuous: before death
|Legitimacy of Children
||Pennsylvania no longer recognizes status of being illegitimate (i.e., "all children legitimate irrespective of marital status of parents")
Between ancestor and descendant, aunt and nephew, brother and sister, uncle and niece, first cousins, bigamous; one party is weak-minded, unsound mind, or under influence of alcohol or drugs; induced by fraud or duress; impotence.
Same-Sex marriages were previously prohibited, but a 2014 District Court ruling found the ban unconstitutional. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court supported this position when it ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges; finding that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional.
Contrary to popular belief, Pennsylvania's marriage law does not allow for annulment just because the couple is recently married. As well, but for a few specific circumstances, not having yet consummated the marriage is not a ground for divorce. This is because annulment is only an option when the marriage is invalid in the first place.
Grounds for Annulment
There are only a few specific circumstances in which a couple can get an annulment. They are lack of consent, underage, marriage between relatives, bigamy, incapacity, and coercion.
Annulment is an option if either spouse was underage at the time of marriage. However, the marriage may be valid if the parents gave a child permission to marry.
In order to marry, a person must have the same legal capacity needed to enter into a contract. There are many reasons why a person may not have the capacity to enter into marriage. Some of them include mental disorders or insanity. Generally, the mental disorder has to have affected their ability to understand the nature and consequences of their actions, as people who suffer from bipolar disorder and depression may still marry.
Marriage Between Relatives
Pennsylvania law prohibits marriage between close relatives. The prohibited relationships include:
- Ancestor and descendant
- Aunt and nephew
- Uncle and aunt
- Brother and sister
- First cousins
Bigamy and Polygamy
Normally, people don't intend to be married to two people at once. Violations of Pennsylvania's prohibition on bigamy and polygamy usually come as a result of one partner having an undissolved prior marriage.
Under the Influence
Annulment is an option when one of the spouses was under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the ceremony. This is because that spouse did not have legal capacity given their intoxication.
Incapacity means that a spouse is unable to engage in sexual relations. The condition must be present before the marriage, and the other spouse must not know about the condition until after the couple is married.
Duress, Coercion, and Fraud
If someone is forced into a marriage by duress, coercion, or fraud, the marriage is invalid and they may seek an annulment. However, they may lose their right to an annulment if they continue the marriage after discovering the untruthfulness that precipitated the marriage.
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.