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Wisconsin Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

Though it may seem simple, the legal proceedings surrounding marriage actually have strict rules. Each state has its own set of annulment and prohibited marriage laws that prohibit marriage in certain circumstances. A prohibited marriage 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, where a person tries to marry more than one spouse, or incestuous marriages, where a person tries to marry their relative.

An annulment, on the other hand, is a way to void a marriage that would be otherwise invalid. 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. However, you usually need to get an annulment within a certain amount of time, so it is important to know the laws and act promptly if you are considering annulling your marriage.

This article provides a brief overview of annulment and prohibited marriages in the state of Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

The chart below lists the details of Wisconsin's annulment and prohibited marriage statutes.

Grounds for Annulment

A court may annul a marriage upon any of the following grounds: a party lacked the capacity to consent to marriage at the time of the marriage, either because of age, mental incapacity, infirmity, or because of the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances, or if a party was induced to enter into a marriage by force or duress, or by fraud involving the essentials of marriage; or a party lacks the physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse; the party was 16 or 17 years old did not have the consent of their parent or guardian or judicial approval, or a party was under the age of 16; a judicial proceeding is required to annul a marriage (Wis. Stat. § 767.313)

Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment

Legitimacy of Children

If the father and mother of a nonmarital child enter into a lawful marriage or a marriage which appears and they believe is lawful, the child becomes a marital child and shall enjoy all rights and privileges of a marital child as if they had been born during the lawful marriage of their parents (Wis. Stat. § 767.803)

Prohibited Marriages

  • No marriage shall be contracted while either of the parties has a spouse living, nor between persons who are nearer of kin than second cousins, except that marriage may be contracted between first cousins where the female has attained the age of 55 or where either party submits an affidavit signed by a physician stating that either party is permanently sterile (Wis. Stat. § 765.03)
  • It is unlawful for any person who is or has been a party in an action for divorce in any state to marry again until six months after the judgment of divorce is granted, and the marriage of any such person solemnized before the expiration of the six months shall be void (Wis. Stat. § 765.03)
  • If a person who is disabled or prohibited from contracting marriage under the laws of this state goes into another state to marry, the marriage shall be void (Wis. Stat. § 765.04)
  • Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a class I felony: contracts a marriage in the state with knowledge that their other marriage is not dissolved; or contracts a marriage with knowledge that the prior marriage of the person they married is not dissolved; or cohabits in the state with a person they married outside the state with knowledge that their marriage had not been dissolved (Wis. Stat. § 944.05)
  • Whoever marries or has nonmarital sexual intercourse with a person they know to be a blood relative and such relative is in fact related in a degree within which the marriage is prohibited by law is guilty of a class F felony (Wis. Stat. § 944.06)
  • If a person enters into a subsequent marriage, and the marriage is entered into in good faith, in the full belief that the former spouse was dead, or that the former marriage had been annulled, or dissolved by a divorce shall, after the impediment is removed by the death or divorce of the party to the former marriage, if they continue to live together as spouses in good faith, be held to have been legally married (Wis. Stat. § 765.24)

Same-Sex Marriages

  • 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.

Research the Law

Related Resources: Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

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 state.

Get started by receiving a consultation from a Wisconsin family law attorney today.

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