Each state regulates marriage and the types of marriages it will acknowledge for the benefits and responsibilities that come from being a married couple. Some marriages are prohibited and are void from the beginning, without any need to divorce.
Other marriages have legally begun, but can be annulled or made as if they didn’t happen. These are voidable at the choice of either of the spouses, except only the underage spouse can annul a marriage for the reason of age. An annulment is different from a divorce because in a divorce, the marriage was legally valid and marital property must be divided appropriately. However, you can get alimony, child support, and other property division through an annulment too.
Racial or Gender Discrimination in State Marriage Laws
Federal law and the Constitution limit how a state can restrict marriage. Before the famous Loving v. Virginia case, for policy reasons, some states had prohibited marriage of people of different races. Then the U.S. Supreme Court decided that was unconstitutional and all states were required to permit marriage between people of any racial background.
Almost 50 years later, federal courts, including the circuit court in which Utah is a part of, have found denying people of the same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. The debate has culminated with the 2015 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Obergefell v. Hodges, which found denials of marriage to be same-sex couples unconstitutional violations of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection clause.
The following chart details more on the annulment and prohibited marriage laws in Utah.
||Utah Code Sections
30-1-1: Incestuous Marriages Void
30-1-2: Marriages Prohibited and Void
30-1-17.1: Grounds for Annulment
|Grounds for Annulment
||You can get a marriage annulled when it’s prohibited, such as for incest or one or both parties was underage, and any grounds existing at common law (law determined by prior cases). The common law grounds include fraud or misrepresentation (lying about important facts to get married) and impotence.
|Legitimacy of Children
||If a couple marries while one or both has an undissolved marriage, as long as this marriage was entered into in good faith (such as thought prior spouse was dead or divorce was legal), the children of the later marriage are legitimate. However, the issue of being legitimate or illegitimate is no longer the legal concern it once was, for example for things like inheritance, child support, or insurance proceeds.
Three types of marriages are prohibited in Utah, incestuous, bigamous, and underage. The marriages that are prohibited for incest are between:
- Ancestor and descendant (mom and son, grandpa and grandson, etc.)
- Brother and sister (whole or half)
- Uncle and niece, aunt and niece, etc.
- First cousins usually (see below)
- Relations up to fifth degree
||Same-sex marriage has been legal in Utah since October 2014.
||Despite TV shows like “Sister Wives” and “Big Love” that depict polygamous families in Utah, it’s actually illegal in Utah to be in a polygamous marriage. However, a federal court ruling has struck down the criminalization of being in a polygamous marriage, although you still can’t hold a marriage license for one man or woman and multiple spouses in Utah.
||In Utah, cousins can marry, if both are 65 or older, or 55 or older and at least one is found by court to be unable to reproduce.
|Common Law Marriage
||Utah has common law marriage in that it has a court petition to get your relationship recognized as a marriage. The court can approve your relationship as a marriage, after the fact, to the date that you meet all these requirements:
- Both of legal age and capable of consenting to marriage
- Legally capable of entering a solemnized marriage (not bigamous, not incestuous, etc.)
- Live together
- Treat each other as if married
- Present yourselves in public as if married
You may want to get this legal recognition to get divorced and divide marital property, inherit property, or to claim benefits in a wrongful death, retirement, insurance, or survivor actions.
If you want an annulment, a divorce, or are concerned about the validity of your marriage, including same-sex or underage marriages, you should consult with an experienced Utah family law attorney.
Note: State laws are revised constantly; therefore, it’s important to verify these marriage laws by talking to a lawyer or conducting your own legal research.
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