Massachusetts law about marriage

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

Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

18 or over to marry

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 Marriage of minors prohibited
  • §14 Determination of validity (annulment)
  • § 24 Nonage minors; receiving of notice; prohibition (age requirement is 18)
  • § 25 Access to legal remedies and relief for married minors
  • § 30 Dispensing with 3 days' notice
  • § 36 Registering marriages that took place outside of Massachusetts
  • § 47A  Breach of contract to marry not actionable “Heart Balm Act”

Federal law

U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1
“Privileges and Immunities Clause, a/k/a the Comity Clause.” The basis for recognition of out-or-state marriages.

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." 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.” 

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 (CJD 430). Mass. Probate and Family Court Department.
Note: this form can no longer be used for marriage of minors. Effective July 1, 2022, no one under 18 may marry in Massachusetts. Use to request waiver of the required 3 day waiting period. See also: Instructions for marriage without delay.

Web sources

Getting married in Massachusetts: before the wedding, Exec. Office of Technology Services and Security.
Provides answers to questions commonly asked prior to a wedding, such as who can officiate a wedding and how to apply for a marriage license. This website does not reflect 2022 changes in the law prohibiting the marriage of minors, specifically MGL c. 207, sections 7 and 24.

Getting married in Massachusetts: after the wedding, Exec. Office of Technology Services and Security.
Includes information on how to: change your name, get a new ID, file taxes, change your health insurance.

How to Get a Marriage License in Massachusetts”, Brides.com, 2021.

How to Get Married at City Hall, City of Boston, (updated 4/13/22)

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. This website does not reflect 2022 changes in the law prohibiting the marriage of minors, specifically MGL c. 207, sections 7 and 24.

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.
This paper provides an overview of the drafting and use of premarital or prenuptial agreements in Massachusetts.

Print sources

Family law and practice; with forms, 4th ed. (Mass Practice vol.1-3), Thomson Reuters, 2013 with supplement. Chapters 17-22.

Fiancé & marriage visas : a couple's guide to U.S. immigration by Ilona M. Bray, Nolo, 2019.

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts family law, LexisNexis, annual.
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 information on prenuptial agreements.

Prenuptial agreements : how to write a fair and lasting contract by Katherine E. Stoner, Nolo, 2019.

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Last updated: September 23, 2022
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