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Missouri Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

Marriage is regulated at the state level, with judicial oversight from the federal courts. State laws prohibit certain marriage arrangements, while establishing limits and procedures for annulment. When a marriage is determined to have been in bad faith (i.e. fraud), in violation of the law (i.e. bigamy), or there is lack of capacity (impotence), it may be annulled. This process essentially erases the marriage as if it never took place.

Same-Sex Marriage in Missouri

Voters passed a ballot initiative recognizing marriage in the state to be between a man and a woman only, thus prohibiting same-sex marriage. This has been a quickly changing area of law (see Same Sex Marriage for more information).

Missouri was also one of only four states to only criminalize homosexual sodomy after a 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Lawrence v. Texas) found that laws banning consensual sodomy were unconstitutional. Missouri dropped consensual sodomy from its statute three years later.

Despite the resistance to same-sex marriage on the state level, a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the matter has eliminated the current obstacles through its 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark decision that found that state statutory and constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and state refusal to acknowledge the lawful same-sex marriages of other states were violations of the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantees of equal protection. Since this time same-sex marriage has been technically available in all 50 states, though some resistence and the possibility of new legislation to circumvent the decision are likely, particularly in jurisdictions such as Missouri.

How to Get an Annulment in Missouri

Getting an annulment is not easy, nor should it be. It's different than a divorce in that it's a process invalidating a marriage. If you can prove one of the grounds for annulment, you may ask the court for an annulment. Missouri also allows couples to obtain an annulment of a divorce, which makes a divorce "disappear" in the eyes of the law.

The following table lists some basics of Missouri's annulment and prohibited marriage laws. See FindLaw's Marriage Law section to learn more.

Code Sections 451.020, 030; 451.022
Grounds for Annulment
  • Bigamy
  • Underage (under 18) without written consent of parents or permission from court
  • Familial relation (parent and child, grandparent and grandchild, brother and sister, aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, first cousins
  • Lack of capacity (mental incompetence, senility, impotence)
  • Common law marriage (those entered after 1921 are void)
  • Duress or fraud
Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment n/a
Prohibited Marriages Between ancestor and descendant, brother and sister (half and whole blood), uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, first cousins (also applies to those born out of wedlock); between persons lacking capacity to enter into marriage contract; bigamous; common law marriages

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Missouri family law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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