Rhode Island Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws

Adults are mostly free to marry whomever they choose, including same-sex couples in a growing majority of states, but not all unions are considered legitimate. Each state has laws governing which marriages are legal, which are prohibited, eligibility for annulment, and other legal aspects of matrimony. The types of marriages often prohibited by state laws include those entered under duress, unions between close relatives, and marriages in which one party is still married to another individual.

Annulment is different than divorce in that it has the legal effect of "erasing" the marriage as if it never existed. You may seek an annulment if the marriage should not have been granted in the first place, but you need to seek a divorce if the marriage doesn't work out (and is legally valid).

Rhode Island has permitted Domestic Partnerships since 2002 and recognized the marriages of same-sex couples from other states. A 2011 bill created Civil Unions for same-sex couples and was later superceded by a 2013 bill legalizing same-sex marriage within the state. In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges held that bans on same-sex marriage and refusal to recognize the same-sex marriages entered into in other states were unconstitutional.

Annulment and Prohibited Marriage in Rhode Island at a Glance

While Rhode Island statute does not offer a provision for annulment, courts will invalidate marriages under certain circumstances. These include incest (partners who are closer in relation than first cousins), bigamy (unresolved earlier marriage), mental incompetence, and refusal to consummate the marriage. This requires the parties to go through the divorce process, even though the marriage will be invalidated with the same effect as an annulment.

The following chart lists additional details on Rhode Island laws regarding annulment and prohibited marriage. See FindLaw's Marriage Law section to learn more.

Code Sections 15-1-1, et. seq.
Grounds for Annulment No statutory provision for annulment (but marriages may be invalidated by the courts under certain circumstances)
Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment -
Legitimacy of Children -
Prohibited Marriages Bigamous; marriage where either party is mentally incompetent at time of marriage absolutely void; between ancestor and descendant, stepparent and stepchild, parent-in-law and son- or daughter-in-law; parent or parent-in-law and son- or daughter-in-law, brother and sister, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew; special exceptions for Jewish marriages allowed by Jewish religious law

Note: State laws are subject to change at any time through the enactment of newly signed legislation or other means, including decisions from higher courts. You should contact a Rhode Island family law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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