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Annulments

Where a divorce terminates a marriage, an annulment declares that no marriage ever existed. Under the Massachusetts General Law c. 207, §14 and depending on whether the marriage is considered void or voidable, either party can file a Complaint for Annulment. However, annulments are not often granted by the courts and should only be sought when the facts clearly show that the marriage is, in fact, invalid.  

 Void vs. Voidable Marriages

  • Void Marriages:       

A void marriage is a marriage that was invalid from its very beginning. Such marriages are unlawful and require no formality to terminate. However, it is recommended that a void marriage be formally terminated by the court. It is always better to be safe, than sorry!  A marriage can be declared void for the following three reasons:

  1. Consanguinity. The parties are too closely related by blood. (e.g. brother/sister);
  2. Affinity. The parties are too closely related through marriage. (e.g. mother-in-law/son); or  
  3. Bigamy. One party was married to someone else at the time he or she married the second party. However, if the party now seeking an annulment knew at the time of the marriage about the prior marriage, they cannot seek an annulment.

 

Important Note:         The reason given for claiming that the marriage was void must be the actual reason you left your spouse.

 

  • Voidable Marriages:  

A voidable marriage is a legal marriage that one (or both) spouse(s) may petition the court to cancel. One party must file a “Complaint for Annulment” in the appropriate Probate and Family Court in order to invalidate the marriage. Voidable marriages occur when:

  1. One spouse lacked the mental capacity to marry. This includes cases where one spouse was not of legal age to be married and no parental or judicial consent for the marriage was sought. In Massachusetts, the legal age for marriage is 18 years old;
  2. One spouse was impotent. This means the spouse lacks the ability to sexually perform and not merely the inability to conceive children;
  3. There is fraud in the marriage contract. This includes if one party is marrying for love and the other is marrying for personal benefit such as avoiding deportation; or
  4. One party entered into the marriage under duress. This means that one party only entered the marriage because of pressure or threat.

 If you are considering filing for a divorce or an annulment, contact an experienced family law attorney who may assist you in determining the best route for you.

 

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and e-mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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Grandparent Visitation Rights in Massachusetts

In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws ch. 119 § 39D, the Commonwealth recognizes the importance of the grandparent/grandchild relationship, while at the same time respecting a custodial parent’s constitutional right to parent his or her child. “The law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions. More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.” Troxel v. Granville, 530 U.S. 57, 68 (2000).

Under M.G.L. ch. 119, § 39D and if the Court finds that such visitation rights are in the best interest of the child(ren), grandparents may be granted visitation rights with their unmarried, minor grandchildren under the following limited circumstances:

  1. If the parents of an unmarried, minor child are divorced; or
  2. If the parents of an unmarried, minor child are married but living apart, under a temporary order or judgment of separate support; or
  3. If either or both parents of the unmarried, minor child are deceased; or
  4. If said unmarried, minor child was born out of wedlock whose paternity has been adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction or whose father has signed an acknowledgement of paternity, and the parents do not reside together.

In order for the Court to determine that the grandparent visitation rights are in the best interest of the child, the grandparents must prove that either (1) there was and is an important and significant relationship in existence between the child and the grandparents and that the Court’s refusal to grant visitation will be harmful to the child’s health, safety, or welfare; or (2) there was no pre-existing relationship, but that visitation rights for the grandparents are required to protect the child from significant harm. Blixt v. Blixt, 437 Mass. 649 (Mass. 2002).

How do I start this process?

 

A grandparent may begin this process by filing a “Complaint for Grandparents Visitation” with the appropriate Probate and Family Court. The Complaint must be accompanied by an affidavit that describes his/her/their involvement with the grandchild(ren), the circumstances surrounding either the reduction or termination of contact, a description of the current contact, if any, and a statement describing the significant harm to the child(ren)’s health, safety, or welfare likely to be suffered by the child(ren) if visitation is not ordered. For further information regarding this complicated process, please contact an experienced Family Law attorney.

 

M. Katie Kerr, Esq. may be reached by telephone at (978) 388-1787.

 

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and e-mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

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