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Requirements for Ending Void Marriages in Texas

Annulment & Void Marriages

Requirements for suits to declare marriage void, explained.

Here, learn about the requirements for a suit to declare a marriage void. A suit to declare a marriage void ends a marriage that is invalid under the Texas Family Code. Under Texas law, there are four situations in which a marriage is void. Some void marriages can even lead to criminal charges. 

What is a void marriage?

Texas law does not recognize some marriages. For example, two people who are closely related to each other cannot get married. A person who is already married cannot marry someone else.

A suit to declare a marriage void ends a marriage that is invalid under the Texas Family Code.

Are suits to declare a marriage void different from divorces or annulments?

Yes. A suit to declare a marriage void is different from a divorce or an annulment. A divorce ends a valid marriage. An annulment also ends a marriage that Texas law considers invalid. Spouses eligible for an annulment can agree to stay married, though. A void marriage is void under almost any circumstances. 

Which types of marriages are considered void in Texas?

The following marriages are void under Texas law: 

  • The spouses are close relatives, such as a parent and child or two siblings. 

  • A spouse is still married to someone else. 

  • A spouse is under the age of 18 and does not have an emancipation order from a court. 

  • The spouses are a stepparent and a stepchild, or they used to have that relationship. 

Where do you file a suit to declare marriage void?

A Texas court can hear a suit to declare a marriage void if either of the following is true: 

  • The spouses got married in Texas. 

  • One or both spouses live in Texas. 

You may file a petition to declare a marriage void in the county where the marriage took place, or where either of you lives. The same courts that handle divorces and annulments also hear suits to declare a marriage void. This is usually a district court or county court. You can ask your local district or county clerk for more information on where to file. 

The first step in the process is to file a petition to declare a marriage void. You must then serve the respondent with the court papers. You can have a process server or constable do this, or your spouse can sign a waiver of service. 

The person who files a petition  to declare a marriage void is the “petitioner.” The other spouse is the “respondent.” 

The spouses are closely related.

Two people with a close family relationship, whether biological or adoptive, cannot get married in Texas. Texas uses a concept called “consanguinity” to define which relationships cannot get married. The closer two people are to one another in a family tree, the more consanguinity they have. 

In order to get a decree declaring a marriage void based on consanguinity, you will have to prove that you and your spouse are related by blood or adoption. You can do this with birth certificates, adoption papers, or other documents. 

Texas prohibits marriages between people up to the third degree of consanguinity: 

  • First degree: Parents and children 

  • Second degree: Siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren 

  • Third degree: Aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, great-grandparents, and great-grandchildren 

State law also bars marriage between ancestors and descendants beyond the third degree. Grandparents and grandchildren with any number of “greats” cannot get married. 

A note of caution is in order regarding this type of suit to declare a marriage void. Incest between anyone up to the third degree of consanguinity is a third-degree felony in Texas. The penalties may include a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for 2 to 10 years. Sexual contact within the first degree of consanguinity is a second-degree felony. The prison sentence for that could be up to 20 years. 

A spouse is already married.

Texas law only allows a person to be married to one person at a time. A marriage that takes place while a spouse is already married is void. The existing marriage must still be valid under the law, meaning that there has not been a divorce and the other spouse is still alive. 

This type of suit to declare a marriage void requires proof that the other marriage remains in effect. For example, you can present the marriage certificate and then testify that the clerk’s office has no record of a divorce. 

A marriage that is void because of bigamy can become a valid common-law marriage. The already-married spouse must get a divorce or annulment. Once the earlier marriage has ended, the spouses must live together and hold themselves out as married. 

Asking a court to declare a marriage void on the basis of an existing marriage is risky. Bigamy is a third-degree felony under Texas law in most cases. This includes both: 

  • Getting married while still married to someone else; and 

  • Marrying someone that you know is still married. 

A spouse is under the age of 18 

Minors, meaning people under the age of 18, do not have as many legal rights as adults. A court can grant adult rights to a minor in a process called “emancipation.” The minor must show good reasons for emancipation and that they can handle the responsibilities of adulthood. 

Marriage is one of the rights that comes with emancipation. A marriage to an unemancipated minor is void under Texas law. This type of suit to declare a marriage void requires proof of the minor’s age and emancipation status at the time of the marriage. 

In certain circumstances, a marriage to someone who is 16 or 17 years old is not void. It could be subject to annulment, though. See our page on the requirements for annulment for more information. 

Sexual contact with a person under the age of 17 is considered sexual assault in most cases under Texas law. This is also commonly known as statutory rape. If the Texas Penal Code would also consider the act to be incest, as described above, it could be a first-degree felony. The penalty could include 5 to 99 years in prison. 

The spouses are stepparent and stepchild.

A stepparent and stepchild cannot get married in Texas. This applies even if the marriage that created the stepparent-stepchild no longer exists. Suppose, for example, that A marries B and becomes C’s stepparent. A and C cannot get married in Texas if A and B get a divorce or B dies. This type of case requires proof of the stepparent-stepchild relationship. 

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