Every state has a list of conditions that disqualify a couple from getting married, including blood relations and bigamy. States also have specific grounds for annulment, which allow for a quick end to the marriage without the expense or stigma of divorce. Wisconsin's annulment and prohibited marriage laws are similar to those of other states. In addition to its prohibition of marriage between blood relatives, Wiscosnin law also bans same-sex marriage but the ban has been ruled unconstitutional (see below).
Annulment is a declaration by a court that a marriage is invalid. So an annulled marriage is a marriage that never should have been allowed in the first place, so the process effectively "erases" the union as if it never happened. Divorce, on the other hand, is the dissolution of a valid marriage. In Wisconsin, grounds for annulment include fraud and lack of consent. Here's an overview of the law:
|Code Sections||767.03, 60; 765.001-.31|
|Grounds for Annulment||Consent lacking: (underage, mental infirmity, alcohol, drugs, force, duress, fraud); lack capacity to consummate; marriage prohibited by state law|
|Time Limits for Obtaining Annulment||Underage: Within 1 yr. (by parent if party before age 18) of marriage; Mental infirmity, alcohol, drugs, force, duress, fraud, no capacity to consummate: Within 1 yr. of knowledge; where marriage prohibited by law, 10 yrs.; bigamy, no limit|
|Legitimacy of Children||Issue of void marriage is legitimate|
|Prohibited Marriages||Previous marriage undissolved; between persons no closer in kin than second cousins (unless woman is 55 or one party is sterile and they are first cousins)|
Same-Sex Marriage in Wisconsin
Same-sex marriages in Wisconsin were in a holding pattern of sorts after a federal court declared in 2014 that the ban on same-sex marriage in Wisconsin was unconstitutional.
“The grounds advanced by Indiana and Wisconsin for their discriminatory policies are not only conjectural; they are totally implausible,” said the unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, as it confirmed lower-court decisions that reversed marriage restrictions in the two states. Wisconson appealed the decision but the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case.
However, the Appeals Court's decision received support when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. The Court found that state bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. Same-sex marriages had resumed in 2014 when the Supreme Court declined to hear the state's appeal and continues to the present, although challenges are still possible and perhaps likely.
Related Resources for Wisconsin Annulment and Prohibited Marriage Laws
Ending a marriage can be a difficult decision, especially if you are wondering if your marriage was legal to begin with. You can find more introductory information about this topic by visiting FindLaw’s sections on annulment and divorce. If you would like legal assistance with your case, you can contact an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney in your area to schedule a consultation.