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Void and Voidable Marriages

For the court to grant a nullity, the court must find the marriage was void or is voidable. The words are similar but have distinct differences under the law.

A marriage is void—meaning that it was never valid—if the relationship between the parties was incestuous. An incestuous marriage is a marriage:

  • Between a parent and children;
  • Between siblings (both half and whole);
  • Between uncles or aunts;
  • Between nieces or nephews;
  • Between a combination of the above (for example, an uncle can't legally marry their niece).

Marriages that fall under these categories are void from their inception, whether or not the relationship between the individuals involved is legitimate.

A marriage is also illegal and void if one party commits bigamy. Bigamy is when one party is married to another person at the time of entering the subsequent marriage.

A marriage is voidable—meaning the court can declare the validity or invalidity of the marriage—under the specific circumstances we outlined earlier in this article (if one of the parties is less than 18 years old and didn't have a guardian or parent consent to the marriage, was unsound of mind at the time of marriage, etc.).

If the court does declare that a marriage is void or voidable, and the court finds that either party or both parties believed in good faith the marriage was valid, the court may declare one or both parties to have the status of a putative spouse. This means they may have rights and obligations like a legally and validly married person, and the matter proceeds similarly to a divorce.

Call (916) 675-3866 to schedule a consultation to discuss your options.

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