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Massachusetts law about marriage

A compilation of laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on marriage law in Massachusetts.

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

MGL c.207: Marriage. Particular sections of interest:

  • § 1 Marriage of man to certain relatives
  • § 2 Marriage of woman to certain relatives
  • § 4 Polygamy
  • § 7 Minors; solemnization of marriage (prohibits marrying individuals under 18). See also, Parton v. Hervey , 67 Mass. 119 (1854) for more discussion of the marriage of minors.
  • §14 Determination of validity (annulment)
  • § 24 Nonage minors; receiving of notice; prohibition (age requirement is 18)
  • § 25 Nonage minors; authorization of marriage (parental consent required under 18)
  • § 30 Dispensing with 3 days' notice
  • § 36 Registering marriages that took place outside of Massachusetts

Selected case law

Collins v. Guggenheim, 417 Mass. 615 (1994).
The Court held that "cohabitation in Massachusetts does not create the relationship of husband and wife in the absence of a formal solemnization of marriage…  [and] the incidents of the marital relationship [do not] attach to an arrangement of cohabitation...common-law marriage is not recognized in Massachusetts.”

Commonwealth v. Lane, 113 Mass. 458 (1873).
The court held that “we ordinarily extend recognition to out-of-State marriages under principles of comity, even if such marriages would be prohibited here, unless the marriage violates Massachusetts public policy, including polygamy, consanguinity and affinity.”

Elia-Warnken v. Elia, 463 Mass. 29 (2012).
The Supreme Judicial Court “recognized a Vermont civil union as the equivalent of marriage in the Commonwealth under principles of comity.”  Thus, where the plaintiff entered into a Massachusetts marriage without having dissolved his prior Vermont civil union, his marriage was void ab initio pursuant to G. L .c. 207 § 8.

Parton v. Hervey , 67 Mass. 119 (1854)
Discussion of the validity of marriage of minors above the age of consent without parental consent.

Shea v. Cameron, 92 Mass. App. Ct. 731 (2018)
A claim of fraudulent inducement to marriage is barred by the Heart Balm Act (act), G. L. c. 207, § 47A.

Forms

One day marriage designation, Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Use to have a friend or family member perform the ceremony.

Out of state non-resident clergy petition to solemnize marriage, Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Marriage without delay/Marriage of minors (CJD 430). Mass. Probate and Family Court Department.
"Use to request waiver of the required 3 day waiting period and/or approval for minor to marry." See also: Instructions for marriage without delay-Marriage of minors

Web sources

Applying for a marriage license in Massachusetts, The Spruce, 2019

Fiance & marriage visas: a couple's guide to U.S. immigration, Nolo, 2019
Includes information on visas, green cards, income requirements, preparing the paperwork and more. Requires free library card for access.

Getting married in Massachusetts: before the wedding, Mass.gov, 2017.
Covers the basics of everything you need to know, including who can marry, who can conduct the wedding, and needed paperwork.

How to get married in Massachusetts, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), July 2015
Written for same-sex couples, but the procedures are identical for all couples. Clear detailed information. Includes information on how to change your surname.

Justices of the Peace: summary of duties
Compiled by the office of the Massachusetts Governor, explains the duties of a justice of the peace in performing a marriage, including the form of the ceremony, permitted fees, and more.

Massachusetts legal impediments to marriage, Mass. Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
Provides a list of who may not marry whom in Massachusetts.

Ordering a birth, marriage, or death certificate, Mass. Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
Information on getting copies of marriage records

Premarital agreement law in Massachusetts, Charles P. Kindregan Jr., December 3, 2012
"traces the various court interpretations up to the present, which in a series of decisions have made enforcement easier when the waiver is express, the agreement is fair and reasonable when made, and not unconscionable when enforcement of an agreement is sought."

Prenuptial agreements, Nolo, 2019
How to write a prenup. Requires free library card for access.

Print sources

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts family law, LexisNexis, 2020.
Chapter 1:  Marriage:  this chapter covers who may enter into a marriage, the legal requirements of a marriage, annulments and same sex marriages in Massachusetts.

Lindy and Parley on separation agreements and antenuptial contracts, Matthew Bender, loose-leaf, 1999 with current supplements.
Includes prenuptial contracts

Massachusetts practice v.1-3 (Family law and practice) 4th ed., Thomson Reuters, 2013.
Chapters 17-22: The law of marriage.  Includes: marriage and family defined and illustrated, the intention and capacity to marry, solemnization of marriage, validity of marriage, premarital planning for death and divorce and proceedings to affirm the validity of marriage.

Contact

Phone

Within Massachusetts only

Within Massachusetts only

Online

Reference librarians online Chat with a law librarian 
Reference librarians via email masslawlib@gmail.com

Address

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2 Center Plaza
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Boston, MA 02108
Last updated: August 21, 2020
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