Although Rhode Island does not allow for annulments, practically speaking, a Rhode Island marriage can be declared “void” by the court. This carries the same effect as an annulment, meaning that it is as though there was no marriage in the first place. Thus, while Rhode Island technically does not provide for annulments, that is merely a function of the language lawmakers chose.
Divorce Versus Annulment
Divorce and annulment are very different things. In a Rhode Island divorce, the parties are ending what is agreed to have been a valid marriage. However, an annulment is a legal proceeding in which a marriage is declared void. After a successful annulment, legally speaking, it is as though the marriage never took place.
Under What Circumstances Can a Marriage Be Declared Void
There are only a few limited circumstances in which a Rhode Island marriage can be declared void. Under Rhode Island General Laws § 15-1-5, both bigamous marriages and those involving a person who is mentally incompetent at the time of the marriage are absolutely void. A bigamous marriage is one in which one of the parties involved is still currently married to another person or “a relationship that provides substantially the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as a marriage whether entered into in this state or another state or jurisdiction.”
Another far less common statute declares “incestuous” marriages null and void. In Rhode Island, an incestuous marriage is one between a person and his or her “sibling, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, stepparent, grandparents’ spouse, spouse’s child, spouse’s grandchild, sibling’s child or parent’s sibling.” There is, however, an exception for those of the Jewish religion. Under § 15-1-4, marriages that are “solemnized among the Jewish people, within the degrees of affinity or consanguinity allowed by their religion” are not affected by the prohibition against incestuous marriages.
Notably, the above examples involve Rhode Island marriages that are “void.” Lawmakers’ use of the term void, rather than “voidable,” means that these marriages are considered void even if no party to the marriage challenges the marriage. Voidable marriages, on the other hand, are marriages that can be declared void at the action of a party. The import of this distinction is that spouses in voided marriages will not be considered a beneficiary of their purported spouse’s estate by default.
Do You Need a Rhode Island Family Law Attorney?
If you have currently realized that your marriage may need to be declared void, contact the dedicated Rhode Island divorce lawyers at Bilodeau Capalbo. At Bilodeau Capalbo, we represent clients in a wide range of Rhode Island family law issues, including divorces and voided marriages. We provide prospective clients with a free consultation to discuss their needs, as well as discuss how we may be able to help. To learn more, and to speak with a dedicated Rhode Island family law attorney today, call 401-300-4055 to schedule your free consultation.
See Related Posts:
What Is an Easement in Rhode Island Real Estate Law?, Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Blog, February 13, 2019.
How Do Courts Divide Assets in a Rhode Island Divorce?, Rhode Island Divorce Lawyer Blog, January 29, 2019.