Do You Need to Consummate a Marriage Legally?

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In some areas, an absence of marital consummation can render a marriage invalid -- or, at the very least, make it eligible for an annulment. However, the need for consummation to take place varies by state. Therefore, if you are concerned that this requirement may be in place in your state, check with your county clerk or wedding officiant for more details.

Reason for Laws Regarding Consummation

Making it a legal requirement for married couples to consummate their marriage helps prevent marital fraud in matters of state as well as in the couple's personal life. In regards to matters of state, couples found to have married to claim tax benefits or to acquire a residential visa will be considered to be illegal in their doing. For this reason, it is common to have immigration officers who interview couples seeking residence when one of them is a U.S. citizen. Though the couple need not prove that the marriage was consummated, it is necessary to prove that the two are in a committed relationship and that their marriage is not a sham.

Preventing Marital Fraud

In some states, entering into a marriage with the intent of never consummating the marriage is considered to be marital fraud. This law is intended to prevent sham marriages. Additionally, it protects those who are forced into marrying, those who don't discover that their partner has a sexually transmitted disease until after the vows are said and those who marry during a time of mental instability. The need for consummation helps those in bad situations deliver themselves by means of an annulment.

Consummation and Annulments

Even if your state does not require that consummation take place in order for the marriage to be recognized, it is possible that the state will be unable to grant you an annulment if the marriage has been consummated. This is because annulments nullify the marriage, denying that it ever took place. Therefore, if one party was impotent or unwilling to complete the marriage contract, the marriage would be rendered invalid.

Religious Views

Though some churches state that a marriage is only valid after consummation takes place, others recognize the fact that the marriage vows are the portion of the wedding that binds the couple together, not the wedding night. Therefore, these churches have made it impossible for couples to acquire an annulment based solely on a lack of consummation. If the parties wish to separate and remarry within their church, it is then necessary for them to prove that other examples of marital fraud were present within their marriage before doing so.