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People are often aware of the many pitfalls when they consider divorce. There are also many complicated questions that arise from time to time regarding marriage, such as when people can legally marry, who is prohibited from marrying, the rights and obligations married people have towards each other.

Age to Legally Marry in Kentucky

Until 2018, while nearly all other states had increased the minimum age at which people can legally marry to 18, Kentucky still allowed people well under 18 to marry under certain circumstances. As a result, there were numerous examples of so called “child brides”, girls in particular who had married when they were as young as 13 or 14. Kentucky had one of the highest rates of child marriages in the country. Concerns arose about coercion, girls pressured into marriage to cover up sexual involvement by an adult with a girl too young to consent to such a relationship.

That all changed in the summer of 2018. As of July, 2018, marriage is prohibited by people under 17 in Kentucky. Period. A person at least 17-year-old might be able to marry, but only if he or she has gone through the complex process of obtaining a court order from a judge permitting the marriage to take place.

The person seeking to marry must jump through many hoops to obtain the court order. To cite just one example: the petitioner (the 17-year-old) must provide proof of his or her maturity and capacity for self-sufficiency independent of the petitioner’s parents and the intended spouse, including but not limited to 1) proof that the petitioner has maintained stable housing or employment for at least three (3) consecutive months prior to the petition and 2) Proof that the petitioner has complete high school, obtained a High School Equivalency Diploma, or completed a vocational training or certificate program.

Even if the 17-year-old is granted permission to marry, in no event can the 17-year-old marry someone more than four years older than the 17-year-old.

Another limited exception to the new rule prohibiting under age marriage is if the marriage took place in Kentucky before the date the law went into effect, or if the lawful marriage took place in another state prior to the parties residing in Kentucky.

Dispelling the Myths about Annulment

The truth is that legal annulments are extremely rare. The reality is that by the time most people approach an attorney, many of the deadlines that would allow a person to qualify for an annulment of a marriage have long since passed.

Who can seek an annulment is a little tricky and complicated and should be discussed with an attorney. The following sets out who may seek an annulment.

First, if a party (spouse) lacked capacity to consent to the marriage at the time the marriage was solemnized (when the ceremony is performed), either because of mental incapacity or deformity or because of the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other incapacitating substances. (Note: This is the only category for which a declaration of invalidity may be sought after the death of either party).

Second, if a party was induced to enter into a marriage by force or duress, or by fraud involving the essentials of marriage (potentially lies about pregnancy or religion, for example, might apply here but the specific facts matter).

A third potential ground for an annulment is if a party lacks the physical capacity to consummate the marriage by sexual intercourse, and the other party did not at the time the marriage was solemnized know of the incapacity.

For these three categories, either party (spouse) or the legal representative of the party who lacked capacity to consent, who was the offended party or did not know of the incapacity, no later than ninety (90) days after the petitioner (the person who files for the annulment) obtained knowledge of the described condition.

Another potential ground is if the marriage is prohibited. What does “prohibited” mean?

  • incestuous marriages (more closely that second cousins)
  • bigamous marriages (you’d be surprised how often someone finds out that their spouse never quite got that divorce completed before re-marrying)
  • marriages to people adjudged mentally disabled
  • underage marriages (addressed elsewhere on this website)
  • improperly solemnized marriages (maybe the person marrying the parties was not legally allowed to perform marriages)

For prohibited marriages, either spouse may seek an annulment no later than one (1) year after the petitioner (the spouse legally seeking the annulment) obtained knowledge of the described condition.

After the specified amount of time has elapsed, if no one has started the process to seek an annulment, that person can still seek to end the marriage, but the process will a divorce, rather than an annulment. Sometimes, after consultation with an attorney, the petitioner learns that the divorce process is quicker and less complicated than an annulment, especially if there are children or significant property accumulated.

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