Q: When is a marriage invalid?
A: A marriage is invalid if it is void, or a court finds it voidable and annuls it.
Q: When is a marriage void?
A: A marriage is absolutely void if contracted by a person whose husband or wife by a former marriage is living unless the former marriage has been dissolved or annulled. Incestuous marriages between legitimate or illegitimate close relatives are also void. In addition, if the marriage ceremony is not conducted by a person authorized by New York law, the marriage will be void. As respects void marriages, no judgment is necessary to terminate the marriage since the marriage is a nullity or invalidity. In reality, an action is usually brought to declare the nullity of a void marriage to provide certainty and a record.
Q: When is a marriage voidable?
A: A marriage is voidable in following situations where either party:
- Is under the age of legal consent, which is eighteen years;
- Is incapable of consenting to a marriage for want of understanding;
- Is incapable of entering into the married state from physical cause;
- Consent to such marriage by reason of force, duress or fraud; or
- Has been incurably mentally ill for a period of five years or more.
An action to annul a voidable marriage is always required. The marriage remains valid ? but voidable ? until the annulment is granted.
Q: Is a marriage invalid when the parties failed to obtain a marriage license?
A: A marriage will be valid even if the parties failed to procure a license to marry as long as they intended marriage and a proper ceremony was conducted.
Q: What if someone thinks he or she has a genuine marriage but it turns out to be invalid?
A: Sometimes people who live as a married couple learn that their marriage is not legally valid. For example, one supposed spouse may have kept a prior marriage secret, or both may have thought incorrectly that an earlier marriage had ended in divorce or the death of a spouse. Or a marriage may be invalid because it is between close relatives, underage persons, or people incapable of entering into the marriage contract because of mental incompetence. The court will make equitable distribution of the parties? property gained during the marriage spousal despite that the marriage is invalid, and is therefore annulled. New York courts will also consider to grant alimony and maintenance in an action of annulment of marriage.
Q : What other legal rules affect invalid marriages?
A : Sometimes the law treats an invalid marriage as valid if one person tricked the other into thinking they are married. If so, a court might not allow the deceiver to declare the marriage invalid. In legal terms, the court "estops" (forbids) the deceiver from denying that the marriage exists.