Select Page

Family Law
Villanova University School of Law
Becker, Lewis

Family Law Outline 2009,
Professor Lewis Becker
I.                     Marriage
a.       State law makes majority of laws regarding the right to marry or what is required to create a valid marriage
b.       Any Federal law can trump state law
                                                               i.      Formalities of marriage- How to marry
                                                             ii.      Substantive law of marriage- Who may marry
II.                   Formalities
                                                               i.      2 main categories of formalities
1.       1) Licensing
2.       2) Solemnization
a.       if licensing+solemnization not valid; common law marriage may make marriage valid
                                                             ii.      Licensing- persons to marry must obtain a license to marry
1.       Licenses obtained from county clerk or clerk of court
2.       Serves as the States screening requirement to determine if parties are eligible (under substantive requirements)
a.       Physical exam, Any existing marriages?, opposite sex?, ect.
3.       If eligible to marry, but do not get a license- marriage still valid
a.       Most marriages which are solemnized are held valid
                                                           iii.      Solemnization- performed by religious leaders or civil officers who are authorized to conduct a marriage
1.       States require solemnization to prevent fraud
2.       Solemnization is limited to what falls into the States statutory requirements
a.       CA- parties may designate anyone they choose to perform
b.       PA- parties themselves may conduct their own marriage
3.       Q: What if marriage not solemnized by a proper party:
a.       If both parties unaware of disqualificationà VALID
b.       If only 1 party unaware of disqualificationà VALID
                                                                                                                                       i.      Universal Life Church example
1.       In PA- PA requires a regular established church w/ some congregationà However, if the parties believed it was solemnized= marriage valid
4.       2 main questions
a.       Is the person authorized to solemnize?
b.       If noà did the parties believe the person was authorized?
                                                                                                                                       i.      If yesà marriage VALID
                                                           iv.      Jurisdiction requirement/ Choice of Law
1.       No domiciliary requirement to be married
a.       Must comply with State law ‘AT THAT TIME’
2.       The validity of a marriage is determined based on the law of the place where it is contracted
a.       PA residents may be validly married in FL; just must comply w/ FL law ‘AT THAT TIME’
                                                             v.      Consummation requirement
1.       no consummation requirement for a valid marriage
2.       no requirement to have sex after marriage
3.       PA- impotence is a grounds for divorce
                                                           vi.      Foreign Country Validation
1.       Courts have applied a presumption favoring marriage to marriages solemnized in another country, upholding validity even if parties did not properly follow the local formalities
                                                         vii.      Federal Law
1.       Federal laws, such as social security act, rely on State law to define marital status
III.                 Common Law Marriage     (Staudenmayer v. Staudenmayer)                             if licensing+solemnization invalid- common law marriage may make marriage valid
a.       Common law marriage is an alternative to formality requirements
b.       Common law marriage- man/women can be married with an exchange of ‘PRESENT WORDS’ intended to create the relationship of marriage ‘AT THAT TIME’
                                                               i.      2 requirements for a valid common law marriage
1.       exchange of present words
2.       intended to create relationship of marriage ‘at that time’
a.       “I will”à NOT present words= no common law marriage
c.        if State recognizes common law marriage- treated as a marriage for all purposes (just as if it was solemnized)à can only be terminated by divorce
d.       Common law marriage is an alternate to the State formalities of:
                                                               i.      Licensing
                                                             ii.      Solemnization
e.       Common law marriage NOT an alternate for State substantive laws
                                                               i.      Same substantive laws of who can enter a marriage apply
1.       If state does not recognize same sex marriage; State will not recognize a common law same sex marriage
f.         2 forms of common law marriage States
                                                               i.      Pure form States- just need an exchange of present words
                                                             ii.      Pure form Plus States- present words+cohabitation+reputation
1.       Added to prevent fraud
g.       Presumptions of Common law marriage Staudenmayer
                                                               i.      When a party is unable to testify: Substitute for ‘PRESENT WORDS’
1.       Cohabitation
2.       Reputation
                                                             ii.      Presumption does not apply when both parties are able to testify
1.       Exception: some states allow presumption in all situations
                                                           iii.      In a Pure Form State and cannot prove ‘present words spoken’, a presumption is created by showing 1) cohabitation AND 2) reputation
h.       Abolishing Common law marriage *Common law marriages are being abolished*
                                                               i.      why?–> 1) Fraud prevention , 2) The reasons common law marriages existed do not exist anymore in this day in age (its so easy to get married)
                                                             ii.      In PAà common law marriage exists ONLY IF contracted before 1/1/05, after that invalid
i.         Conflict of Law: -See Renshaw v. Heckler
                                                               i.      States are not obligated to give Full Faith and Credit instead use Conflict of laws Principle
1.       Conflict of Laws Principleà Recognizedà as long as not against public policy of the state
                                                             ii.      Common law marriages will be recognized in non-common law marriage States (same as same sex marriages)if valid where contracted
                                                           iii.      Common law marriages will not be recognized in a common law marriage State if contracted in a non-common law marriage state
1.       If the marriage is invalid in the state where contracted, it is invalid everywhere else
j.         Federal Law
                                                               i.      Federal laws, such as social security act, rely on State law to define marital status
IV.                 Substantive Requirements
a.       All states have restrictions on who may marry
b.       Right to marry is a funamental right à therefore applyà strict scrutiny
                                                               i.      Loving v. Virginia
c.        Restrictions may be ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL
                                                               i.      14th Amendment
1.       Due Process
a.       “cannot deprive life, liberty, or property w/o due process”
2.       Equal Protection
a.       “State shall not deny the equal protection of the law
                                                                                                                                       i.      protects against discrimination
                                                                                                                                     ii.      must show discrimination against a class of persons 
d.       Rational Basis Test v. Strict Scrutiny
                                                               i.      Rational basis- state has a legitimate interest in the matter
1.       (make sure child support payments get paid)
                                                             ii.      Strict Scrutiny- applied when statute impacts a fundamental right
1.       must be a compelling State interest and statute must be closely tailored to effectuate ONLY that State interest
2.       must be a significant interference w/ fundamental right or else rational basis test
a.       ex: minimum marriage age 18 years; 3-5 day wait period- does not significantly impair right to marry
e.       Zablocki v. Redhail- Wis. Statute denied marriage license to individuals with unpaid child support obligations
                                                               i.      Holdingà right to marry= fundamental right= strict scrutiny
1.       Applying strict scrutinyà
a.       is there a compelling state interestàYES right to child support
b.       is the statute closely tailored to effectuate ONLY that interestà NO
                                                                                                                                       i.      if you don’t have the money to pay child support, denying right to marry does not get that money
                                                                                                                                     ii.      to justify statute must show stopping of ALL obligations, not just right to marry
1.       ex: right to buy a car, ect.
f.         Analysis
                                                               i.      Does the statute significantly infringe upon the right to marry;
1.       if yesà
a.       Apply strict scrutiny à
                                                                                                                                       i.      Compelling state interest

s for annulment
2.       2 tests
a.        materiality test *NOT VALID TEST- Was the fraudulent statement (or non-statement) material to inducing the party into the contract of marriage
b.       essential of marriage test *VALID TEST; ALL STATES USE- Does the fraud go to the essential of the marriage?
                                                                                                                                       i.      Whether the false representations or concealment were such as to defeat the essential purpose of the injured spouse inherit in the contracting for the marriage
1.       Subjective test
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Statement has to be fraudulent ‘AT THE TIME OF STATEMENT, not a change of mind
1.       Fraud @ time uttered= grounds for annulment
2.       Change of mind= no annulment
3.       Consequences of Fraud
a.        Fraud makes a marriage Voidable (Voidable vs. Void)
                                                                                                                                       i.      Voidable- means it has to be annulled or else its valid (a voidable marriage is valid until annulled)
1.       Can only be attacked…
2.       By 1 party…
3.       While both parties are alive
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Can be validated upon continuing cohabitation after learning about invalidating concern
                                                             v.      Durress
1.       Consent must be by free will
a.        Elements of duress
                                                                                                                                       i.      Wrongful act
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Overcomes the will of a person
2.       A marriage based on duress is voidable- can be annulled
3.       Cohabitation after effects of duress are removed can ratify/validate marriage
                                                           vi.      Limited Consent (ex: we will marry for 3 years then divorce)
1.       Parties cannot define when a marriage will end – against public polcy
2.       Ex: Immigration marriage- couple marry for citizenship for immigration purposes
a.       State Law saysà must be a functional marriageà spouses living together performing normal duties/responsibilities of a marriage
c.        Annulment
                                                               i.      Annulment- a declaration that no marriage ever existed between the parties, because the marriage was void or because the court nullifies the marriage retroactively
IX.                 Substantive requirement- 2 Parties of Opposite sex
I.                    Substantive requirement
a.       If do not meet States criteria, cannot get license
                                                               i.      Consanguinity- are you related?
                                                             ii.      Currently married- are you currently married?
                                                               i.      Same sex- are you the same sex?
b.      Same sex
c.       if a same sex couple in a opposite sex marriage only State has a ceremony w/ solemnized?
                                                               i.      Considered a NON-marriageà not even void
1.      non-marriage- treated as if never existed
                                                             ii.      void vs. non-marriage
1.      can annul a void marriage
2.      possibly some property rights flow from void marriages
3.      possibly some economic relief for a void marriage
a.       PA- 3104
d.      Constitutional Litigation of same-sex marriage
e.       State Constitution governs
                                                               i.      State constitution may provide more but not less liberties than the Fed Constitution