Marriage Laws for Massachusetts
Who can perform marriage in Massachusetts, Who can file for a marriage license, and more.
Who can perform marriage in Massachusetts, Who can file for a marriage license, and more.
A marriage contracted while either party thereto has a former wife or husband living, except as provided in section six and in chapter two hundred and eight, shall be void.
If a person, during the lifetime of a husband or wife with whom the marriage is in force, enters into a subsequent marriage contract with due legal ceremony and the parties thereto live together thereafter as husband and wife, and such subsequent marriage contract was entered into by one of the parties in good faith, in the full belief that the former husband or wife was dead, that the former marriage had been annulled by a divorce, or without knowledge of such former marriage, they shall, after the impediment to their marriage has been removed by the death or divorce of the other party to the former marriage, if they continue to live together as husband and wife in good faith on the part of one of them, be held to have been legally married from and after the removal of such impediment, and the issue of such subsequent marriage shall be considered as the legitimate issue of both parents.
A magistrate or minister shall not solemnize a marriage if he has reasonable cause to believe that a party to the intended marriage is under eighteen unless the provisions of sections twenty-four and twenty-five have been satisfied.
A marriage solemnized within the commonwealth which is prohibited by reason of consanguinity or affinity between the parties, or of either of them having a former wife or husband living, shall be void without a judgment of divorce or other legal process.
If any person residing and intending to continue to reside in this commonwealth is disabled or prohibited from contracting marriage under the laws of this commonwealth and goes into another jurisdiction and there contracts a marriage prohibited and declared void by the laws of this commonwealth, such marriage shall be null and void for all purposes in this commonwealth with the same effect as though such prohibited marriage had been entered into in this commonwealth.
If the validity of a marriage is doubted, either party may institute an action for annulling such marriage, or if it is denied or doubted by either party, the other party may institute an action for affirming the marriage. Such action shall be commenced in the same manner as an action for divorce, and all the provisions of chapter two hundred and eight relative to actions for divorce shall, so far as appropriate, apply to actions under this section. Upon proof of the validity or nullity of the marriage, it shall be affirmed or declared void by a judgment of the court, and such judgment of nullity may be made although the marriage was solemnized out of the commonwealth, if at that time and also when the action was commenced the plaintiff had his domicile in the commonwealth, or if he had resided in this commonwealth for five years last preceding the commencement of said action, unless the court finds that he has removed into this commonwealth for the purpose of obtaining said judgment. The register of probate shall, within two days after the expiration of the appeal period following the entry of a judgment annulling a marriage, or if an appeal was taken within two days after entry of final judgment pursuant to a rescript of the appellate court, send an attested copy thereof to the commissioner of public health, the clerk or registrar of the city or town in the commonwealth where the marriage was solemnized, and the clerk or the registrar of each city and town in the commonwealth where a party to the marriage dwelt at the time of the marriage. The commissioner of public health and every clerk or registrar to whom such an attested copy is sent shall, forthwith upon receipt of such copy, enter upon the margin of his record of the marriage a note of reference to the judgment of annulment.
A clerk or registrar issuing a certificate of intention of marriage contrary to section thirty-three shall forfeit not more than one hundred dollars.
Whoever makes an illegal alteration or erasure on a certificate of intention of marriage shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.
Whoever neglects to make the record and returns required by section forty shall forfeit not less than twenty nor more than one hundred dollars.
Whoever performs a ceremony of marriage upon a certificate more than sixty days after the filing of the notice of intention of marriage as set forth in such certificate, and whoever having taken out such certificate and not having used it fails to return it, within sixty days after such filing, to the office issuing the same, shall be punished by a fine of not more than ten dollars.
A justice of the peace or other person authorized to solemnize marriages may advertise his name or any trade name, business address, telephone number, rate of compensation as provided by law, regular hours of availability and any ability in a second language and any present or former professional affiliation, in any newspaper, magazine, telephone directory or other publication of general circulation. Whoever advertises to perform or to procure the performance of a marriage ceremony by any other means shall be punished by a fine of not less than ten nor more than one hundred dollars; provided, however, that this section shall not be construed to prohibit the use of a business card by a justice of the peace or other person authorized to perform marriage ceremonies; and provided, further, that if a justice of the peace uses a business card said card shall not display the seal of the commonwealth.
No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, stepmother, grandfather?s wife, grandson?s wife, wife?s mother, wife?s grandmother, wife?s daughter, wife?s granddaughter, brother?s daughter, sister?s daughter, father?s sister or mother?s sister.
No woman shall marry her father, grandfather, son, grandson, brother, stepfather, grandmother?s husband, daughter?s husband, granddaughter?s husband, husband?s grandfather, husband?s son, husband?s grandson, brother?s son, sister?s son, father?s brother or mother?s brother.
The prohibition of the two preceding sections shall continue notwithstanding the dissolution, by death or divorce, of the marriage by which the affinity was created, unless the divorce was granted because such marriage was originally unlawful or void.
A marriage may be solemnized in any place within the commonwealth by the following persons who are residents of the commonwealth: a duly ordained minister of the gospel in good and regular standing with his church or denomination, including an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church or in the Roman Catholic Church; a commissioned cantor or duly ordained rabbi of the Jewish faith; by a justice of the peace if he is also clerk or assistant clerk of a city or town, or a registrar or assistant registrar, or a clerk or assistant clerk of a court or a clerk or assistant clerk of the senate or house of representatives, by a justice of the peace if he has been designated as provided in the following section and has received a certificate of designation and has qualified thereunder; an authorized representative of a Spiritual Assembly of the Baha?is in accordance with the usage of their community; a priest or minister of the Buddhist religion; a minister in fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association and ordained by a local church; a leader of an Ethical Culture Society which is duly established in the commonwealth and recognized by the American Ethical Union and who is duly appointed and in good and regular standing with the American Ethical Union; the Imam of the Orthodox Islamic religion; and, it may be solemnized in a regular or special meeting for worship conducted by or under the oversight of a Friends or Quaker Monthly Meeting in accordance with the usage of their Society; and, it may be solemnized by a duly ordained nonresident minister of the gospel if he is a pastor of a church or denomination duly established in the commonwealth and who is in good and regular standing as a minister of such church or denomination, including an ordained deacon in The United Methodist Church or in the Roman Catholic Church; and, it may be solemnized according to the usage of any other church or religious organization which shall have complied with the provisions of the second paragraph of this section. Churches and other religious organizations shall file in the office of the state secretary information relating to persons recognized or licensed as aforesaid, and relating to usages of such organizations, in such form and at such times as the secretary may require.
The record of a marriage made and kept as provided by law by the person by whom the marriage was solemnized, or by the clerk or registrar, or a copy thereof duly certified, shall be prima facie evidence of such marriage.
A copy of the record of a marriage solemnized by a consul or diplomatic agent of the United States or a certificate from such consul or agent shall be prima facie evidence of such marriage.
Marriage may be proved by evidence of an admission thereof by an adverse party, by evidence of general repute or of cohabitation of the parties as married persons, or of any other fact from which it may be inferred.
The issue of a marriage declared void by reason of consanguinity or affinity between the parties shall be a person born out of wedlock.
The issue of a marriage declared void by reason of nonage, insanity or idiocy of either party shall be the legitimate issue of the parent who was capable of contracting the marriage.
If a marriage is declared void by reason of a prior marriage of either party and the court finds that the second marriage was contracted with the full belief of the party who was capable of contracting the second marriage that the former husband or wife was dead, or that the former marriage was void, or that a divorce had been adjudged leaving the party to the former marriage free to marry again, or that there was no former marriage, such finding shall be stated in the judgment, and the issue of the second marriage, if born or begotten before the second marriage was declared void, shall be the legitimate issue of the parent capable of contracting the marriage.
Upon or after a judgment of nullity, the court shall have like power to make orders relative to the care, custody and maintenance of the minor children of the parties as upon a judgment of divorce.
Persons intending to be joined in marriage in the commonwealth shall, not less than three days before their marriage, jointly cause notice of their intention to be filed in the office of the clerk or registrar of any city or town in the commonwealth, and pay the fee provided by clause (42) of section thirty-four of chapter two hundred and sixty-two. In computing the three day period specified in this section and in determining the third day referred to in section twenty-eight, Sundays and holidays shall be counted.
Breach of contract to marry shall not constitute an injury or wrong recognized by law, and no action, suit or proceeding shall be maintained therefor.
The clerk shall require written notice of intention of marriage, on forms furnished by the state registrar of vital records and statistics, containing such information as is required by law and also a statement of absence of any legal impediment to the marriage, to be given before such town clerk under oath by both of the parties to the intended marriage; provided, that if a registered physician makes affidavit to the satisfaction of the town clerk that a party is unable, by reason of illness, to appear, such notice may be given on behalf of such party, by his or her parent or legal guardian, or, in case there is no parent or legal guardian competent to act, or by the other party. Said forms containing the parties? written notice of intent to marry shall constitute a public record. In addition to such forms, the town clerk shall also require the parties to furnish information required for a separate report to be transmitted to the state registrar, including the social security number and residence address of both parties and such other information as may be required by state or federal law. A copy of said report shall not be retained by the town clerk nor shall it constitute a public record. The state registrar may make the information contained in said separate report available to the IV-D agency as set forth in chapter 119A and to such other state or federal agencies as may be required by state or federal law. In case of persons, one or both of whom are in the armed forces, such notice may be given by either party, provided that one is domiciled within the commonwealth. In the case of persons, one of whom is incarcerated in a county house of correction, or a state correctional facility, such notice shall be given by either party to the intended marriage. The oath or affirmation to such notice shall be to the truth of all the statements contained therein whereof the party subscribing the same could have knowledge, and may be given before the town clerk or before a regularly employed clerk in his office designated by him in writing and made a matter of record in the office. No fee shall be charged for administering such oath or affirmation. In towns having an assistant town clerk, he may administer the oath.
The clerk or registrar need not receive notices of intention of marriage on Sunday or a legal holiday, nor at any place except his office.
The clerk or registrar shall not, except as provided in the following section, receive a notice of the intention of marriage of a person under eighteen.
The probate court for the county where, or a district court within the judicial district of which, a minor under the age specified in the preceding section resides may, after hearing, make an order allowing the marriage of such minor, if the parents or surviving parent of such minor, or, if only one such parent resides in the commonwealth, that parent, or, if neither such parent is alive and resident thereof, or if the parent or parents qualified as aforesaid to consent are disqualified as hereinafter provided, a legal guardian with custody of the person of such minor has consented to such order. If a parent has deserted his family, or if found to be incapacitated by reason of mental illness and incapable of consent, or if found unfit under the provisions of section five of chapter two hundred and one to have custody of such minor, it shall not be necessary to obtain his consent to such order. If a parent whose consent would be required if living in the commonwealth lives outside thereof and the address of such parent is known, such notice of the proceedings shall be given him as the probate or district court may order. Said court may also after hearing make such order in the case of a person whose age is alleged to exceed that specified in the preceding section, but who is unable to produce an official record of birth, whereby the reasonable doubt of the clerk or registrar, as exercised under section thirty-five, may be removed. Upon receipt of a certified copy of such order by the clerk or registrar of the town where such minor resides, he shall receive the notice required by law and issue a certificate as in other cases.
Whoever, without the consent of both parties to an intended marriage, gives the notice of their intention of marriage required by law shall be liable in damages to either of such parties whose name was so used without such consent. The superior court, upon petition of either party alleged to intend marriage in such a notice given without the consent of both parties, and not followed by their intermarriage, may, after notice and a hearing, order that such notice of intention be cancelled in the town records.
Alienation of affection and criminal conversation shall not constitute an injury or wrong recognized by law, and no action, suit or proceeding shall be maintained therefor.
A party to an intended marriage who has been legally adopted shall, in the notice of intention thereof, give the names of his parents by adoption; and the names of his parents may also be added. The consent of a parent by adoption to the marriage of a minor shall be sufficient if the consent of a parent of a minor is required by law as a preliminary to marriage. If the natural parents of a minor have been divorced and the consent of one of them is required by law, preliminary to the marriage of such minor, the consent of the parent having the custody of such minor shall be sufficient.
On or after the third day from the filing of notice of intention of marriage, except as otherwise provided, but not in any event later than sixty days after such filing, the clerk or registrar shall deliver to the parties a certificate signed by him, specifying the date when notice was filed with him and all facts relative to the marriage which are required by law to be ascertained and recorded, except those relative to the person by whom the marriage is to be solemnized. Such certificate shall be delivered to the minister or magistrate before whom the marriage is to be contracted, before he proceeds to solemnize the same. If such certificate is not sooner used, it shall be returned to the office issuing it within sixty days after the date when notice of intention of marriage was filed.
If either of the parties to an intended marriage has arrived as an immigrant from a foreign country within five days, the notice of intention may be filed at any time before the marriage, and the certificate required by the preceding section shall be issued at any time after the filing of such intention.
Upon application by both of the parties to an intended marriage, when both parties are residents of the commonwealth or both parties are non-residents, or upon application of the party residing within the commonwealth when one of the parties is a resident and the other a non-resident, a judge of probate or a justice of a district court, or a special judge of probate and insolvency or special justice of a district court, may, after hearing such evidence as is presented, grant a certificate stating that in his opinion it is expedient that the intended marriage be solemnized without delay. Upon presentation of such a certificate, or, in extraordinary or emergency cases when the death of either party is imminent, upon the authoritative request of a minister, clergyman, priest, rabbi, authorized representative of a Spiritual Assembly of the Baha?is or attending physician, the clerk or registrar of the town where the notice of intention has been filed shall at once issue the certificate prescribed in section twenty-eight.
No alteration or erasure shall be made by any person on the certificate under section twenty-eight until it has been returned to the clerk or registrar, and then only in such form and to such extent as he may prescribe. Any such certificate may be recorded after correction in accordance herewith.
If it appears from the statements made in the written notice of intention of marriage that a party to such intended marriage is under eighteen, the clerk or registrar shall not, except as required under section twenty-five, issue a certificate under section twenty-eight before receiving proof of the age of the parties. Such proof shall be contained in any of the following documents, graded and taking precedence in the order named: (1) an original or certified copy of a record of birth; (2) an original or certified copy of a baptismal record; (3) a passport; (4) a life insurance policy; (5) an employment certificate; (6) a school record; (7) an immigration record; (8) a naturalization record; or (9) a court record. Documentary evidence of a lower grade as aforesaid shall not be received by the clerk or registrar unless he is satisfied that evidence of a higher grade is not readily procurable. If no such documentary proof of age is procurable, the consent of the parent shall be sufficient. If the clerk or registrar has reasonable cause to believe that a party to an intended marriage represented to be eighteen or over, is under such age, he shall, before issuing such certificate, require documentary proof of age as aforesaid.
If it is necessary to give notice in two towns of the intention of marriage of a minor, the clerk or registrar who first takes the consent of the parent or guardian shall take it in duplicate, retaining one copy and delivering the other duly attested by him to the person obtaining the certificate, to be given to the clerk or registrar issuing the second certificate; and no fee shall be charged for such consent or copy.
The clerk or registrar may refuse to issue a certificate if he has reasonable cause to believe that any of the statements contained in the notice of intention of marriage are incorrect; but he may, in his discretion, accept depositions under oath, made before him, which shall be sufficient proof of the facts therein stated to authorize the issuing of a certificate. He may also dispense with the statement of any facts required by law to be given in a notice of intention of marriage, if they do not relate to or affect the identification or age of the parties, or a former marriage of either party, if he is satisfied that the same cannot with reasonable effort be obtained.
Any resident of this commonwealth who marries outside the commonwealth and thereafter resides within the United States or any of its territories or possessions, or the spouse or heirs-at-law of such a person, may personally present to the town clerk or registrar of the town where such person was domiciled at the time of said marriage an original certificate, declaration or other written evidence of the same, or a photostatic copy thereof. The clerk or registrar may file such certificate, declaration, written evidence or photostatic copy as evidence establishing such marriage, or may make a copy thereof, which he shall attest as a true copy, and which he may then file as such evidence. If such certificate, declaration, written evidence, photostatic copy or attested copy is not, in the opinion of the clerk or registrar, sufficient to establish such marriage, and he refuses to file the same, a judge of probate in the county wherein such town lies may, on petition and after a hearing, at which the clerk shall have an opportunity to be heard, order him to receive such certificate, declaration, written evidence, photostatic copy or attested copy as sufficient evidence to establish such marriage, whereupon such clerk or registrar shall file the same.
The commissioner of public health shall furnish to the clerk or registrar of every town a printed list of all legal impediments to marriage, and the clerk or registrar shall forthwith post and thereafter maintain it in a conspicuous place in his office.
The governor may in his discretion designate a justice of the peace in each town and such further number, not exceeding one for every five thousand inhabitants of a city or town, as he considers expedient, to solemnize marriages, and may for a cause at any time revoke such designation. The state secretary, upon payment of twenty-five dollars to him by a justice of the peace so designated, who is also a clerk or an assistant clerk of a city or town or upon the payment of fifty dollars by any other such justice, shall issue to him a certificate of such designation. The state secretary may authorize, subject to such conditions as he may determine, the solemnization of any specified marriage anywhere within the commonwealth by the following nonresidents: a minister of the gospel in good and regular standing with his church or denomination; a commissioned cantor or duly ordained rabbi of the Jewish faith; an authorized representative of a Spiritual Assembly of the Baha?is in accordance with the usage of their community; the Imam of the Orthodox Islamic religion; a duly ordained priest or minister of the Buddhist religion; a minister in fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association and ordained by a local church; a leader of an Ethical Culture Society which is recognized by the American Ethical Union and who is duly appointed and in good and regular standing with the American Ethical Union; a justice of a court or a justice of the peace authorized to solemnize a marriage by virtue of their office within their state of residence; and, it may be solemnized in a regular or special meeting for worship conducted by or under the oversight of a Friends or Quaker Monthly Meeting in accordance with the usage of their Society. A nonresident may solemnize a marriage according to the usage of any church or religious organization which shall have complied with the provisions of the second paragraph of section 38. A certificate of such authorization shall be issued by the state secretary and shall be attached to the certificate issued under section twenty-eight and filed with the appropriate city or town clerk. If one of the nonresidents enumerated above solemnizes a specified marriage anywhere within the commonwealth without having obtained a certificate under this section, the state secretary, upon application of such person, may issue a certificate validating such person?s acts. The certificate of validation shall be filed with the certificate issued under section twenty-eight of chapter two hundred and seven. In addition to the foregoing, the governor may designate any other person to solemnize a particular marriage on a particular date and in a particular city or town, and may for cause at any time revoke such designation. The state secretary, upon the payment to him of twenty-five dollars by said other person, shall issue to said person a certificate of such designation. Such certificate shall expire upon completion of such solemnization.
Every justice of the peace, minister of the gospel, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Association, rabbi, secretary of a Spiritual Assembly of the Baha?is, leader of an Ethical Culture Society, duly ordained priest or minister of the Buddhist religion, Imam of the Orthodox Islamic religion, clerk or keeper of the records of a meeting wherein marriages among Friends or Quakers are solemnized, nonresident justice of a court and any person authorized to solemnize marriages according to the usage of any other church or religious organization which shall have complied with the provisions of the second paragraph of section thirty-eight shall make and keep a record of each marriage solemnized by him, or in such meeting, and of all facts relative to the marriage required to be recorded by section one of chapter forty-six. He shall also return each certificate issued under section twenty-eight no later than the tenth day of the month following each month in which marriages are solemnized by him to the clerk or registrar who issued the same. Each certificate and copy so returned shall contain a statement giving the place and date of marriage, attested by the signature of the person who solemnized the same, or of said secretary of a Spiritual Assembly of the Baha?is or of said leader of an Ethical Culture Society, or of said duly ordained priest or minister of the Buddhist religion, or Imam of the Orthodox Islamic religion, or of said clerk or keeper of the records of a Friends or Quaker Monthly Meeting or any person authorized to solemnize marriages according to the usage of any other church or religious organization which shall have complied with the provisions of the second paragraph of section thirty-eight. The person who solemnized the marriage shall add the title of the office by virtue of which the marriage was solemnized, as ?justice of the peace?, ?minister of the gospel?, ?clergyman?, ?priest?, ?rabbi?, ?authorized representative of a Spiritual Assembly?, ?leader of an Ethical Culture Society?, or ?duly ordained priest or minister of the Buddhist religion?, or ?Imam of the Orthodox Islamic religion?, or other appropriate title, and his residence. All certificates or copies so returned shall be recorded by the clerk or registrar receiving them.
If a certificate of marriage is found, upon its return to the clerk or registrar, to have been incorrectly filled out by the person who solemnized a marriage under it, the clerk or registrar shall have it corrected and shall enforce the penalties provided by law relative thereto. Such imperfect certificates shall be recorded and indexed by the clerk or registrar.
A marriage solemnized by a person professing to have the authority to solemnize marriages under section thirty-eight or thirty-nine shall not be void, nor shall the validity thereof be in any way affected by want of authority in such person or society, or by an omission or by informality in the manner of filing the notice of intention, if the marriage is in other respects lawful and is consummated with a full belief of either of the persons so married that they have been lawfully married.
Marriages solemnized in a foreign country by a consul or diplomatic agent of the United States shall be valid in this commonwealth.
A city by ordinance and a town by vote may authorize its clerk or registrar to pay on demand, in his office, twenty-five cents to any person who has legally solemnized a marriage in the commonwealth, after the receipt by such clerk or registrar of the certificate in legal form of the solemnization of such marriage. A city or town which passes such ordinance or vote shall annually appropriate the money necessary therefor, and the clerk or registrar thereof shall file quarterly with the treasurer or other proper financial officer of said city or town proper vouchers for all such payments.
Whoever, not being duly authorized by the laws of the commonwealth, undertakes to join persons in marriage therein shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.
Whoever, being duly authorized to solemnize marriages in the commonwealth, joins in marriage persons who have not complied with the laws relative to procuring certificates of notice of intention of marriage shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.
Violations of any provision of section seven, twenty-six or thirty-four, shall, upon complaint made within one year thereafter, be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.
Whoever violates any provision of section twenty, and whoever falsely swears or affirms in making any statement required under section twenty, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.