Although it may seem simple, the legal proceedings surrounding marriage actually have strict rules. Each state has its own set of laws that relate to civil annulments and prohibited marriages. A prohibited marriage is void because the marriage was never legally valid to begin with. Commonly prohibited marriages include bigamous and incestuous marriages. In bigamous marriages, a person tries to marry more than one spouse. In incestuous marriages, a person tries to marry a closely related family member.
A civil annulment is a way to void a marriage. While both an annulment and a divorce end a marriage, an annulment wipes the slate clean as if there had been no marriage to begin with. By law you usually need to get an annulment within a certain amount of time, so it's important to know the laws and act promptly if you are considering annulling your marriage.
This article provides a brief overview of laws related to civil annulments and prohibited marriages in Tennessee.
Civil Annulments and Prohibited Marriages in Tennessee
In the chart below, you'll find information about the laws in Tennessee that are related to civil annulments and prohibited marriages.
- Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-101, incestuous marriages are prohibited.
- Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-102, marriages where a party has not already dissolved another marriage before marrying another person are prohibited. There are exceptions to this if the party that is attempting to marry someone has not seen or heard from their spouse in five or more years. Under this exception, the absent spouse must be presumed to be dead.
- Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-15-301, bigamous marriages are prohibited.
Grounds for Annulment
- Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-105, marriages involving underage parties are legally invalid, if consent has not been obtained from a parent or guardian.
- Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-108, marriages that are entered into without the consent of one or both of the parties are legally invalid.
- Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-109, marriages where parties are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the marriage are legally invalid. Under the same law, marriages where parties are of unsound mind or mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage are also legally invalid.
Legitimacy of Children
- Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-125, children born to marriages that have been annulled or are legally invalid are considered legitimate.
- The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) established that bans on same-sex marriages in any state violate the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. With this ruling, same-sex marriages were legalized.
- On December 13, 2022, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. signed into law the Respect for Marriage Act, which codified laws related to protections for same-sex marriage.
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.
Civil Annulments and Prohibited Marriages in Tennessee: Other Resources
Deciding to end a marriage (or wondering whether or not your marriage was legal to begin with) is never a simple choice. For more information and resources regarding this topic, you can visit FindLaw's sections on Annulment, Divorce, and Tennessee Family Law.
Next Steps: Speak to a Family Law Attorney
If you are considering annulling your marriage or have questions regarding its legitimacy, you should speak to a local family law attorney. An experienced attorney can view the specific facts of your case and give you legal advice using the relevant laws of your jurisdiction.
Get started by receiving a consultation from a Tennessee divorce attorney today.