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What is an invalid marriage?

  • Time:2020-05-25
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The invalid marriage system was added to the newly revised Marriage Law in 2001. An invalid marriage refers to the combination of a man and woman which does not constitute a valid marriage as it does not satisfy all the legal requirements for a valid marriage. Article 10 of the Marriage Law explicitly states, "Any marriage between a man and a woman shall be invalid if: (1) the marriage is bigamy in nature; (2) the man and the woman are prohibited from entering into marriage due to their kinship; (3) marriage is deemed inappropriate for either the man or the woman in medicine due to his/her disease which has not been cured; or (4) either the man or the woman is under the legal age for marriage."

(1) The marriage is invalid due to bigamy. Bigamy is in material violation of the basic principle of "monogamy" in the Marriage Law and infringes the legitimate rights and interests of the parties concerned, so it is strictly prohibited by law in the PRC. Therefore, it is explicitly stipulated that any "marriage relationship" based on bigamy shall be invalid as marriage.

(2) The marriage is invalid because of the kinship prohibited from entering into marriage. Article 7 of the Marriage Law of the PRC explicitly states that marriage is prohibited between a man and a woman who are relatives of "lineal kinship or collateral kinship within three generations". The prohibition of marriage due to such kinship is in line with not only the natural law of human reproduction but also the requirements of human ethics. Most countries explicitly prohibit marriage of relatives within a certain range through legislation. The "kinship" under the Marriage Law should be understood to include both natural kinship and fictional kinship.

(3) The marriage is invalid due to a disease which prohibits marriage. According to Article 7 of the Marriage Law, marriage is prohibited if "either the man or the woman is suffering from any disease and marriage is deemed inappropriate for him/her in medicine", and According to Article 10 thereof, the marriage is invalid if "marriage is deemed inappropriate for either the man or the woman in medicine due to his/her disease which has not been cured". Attention should be paid to the following points in case of a claim for invalid marriage if "either the man or the woman is suffering from any disease and marriage is deemed inappropriate for him/her in medicine": (1) The diseases should be stipulated under the law rather than recognized by either spouse; (2) The onset of the disease should be before rather than after the marriage registration; (3) The disease has not been cured after marriage, that is to say, the disease still exists when the marriage is claimed invalid. At present, the competent authority has not announced the diseases which shall be deemed inappropriate for marriage in medicine. Therefore, the claim that marriage is invalid on the basis that "either the man or the woman is suffering from any disease and marriage is deemed inappropriate for him/her in medicine" will not be supported.

(4) The marriage is invalid due to underage marriage. The legal age for marriage is the minimum age for marriage stipulated by law. All countries have clear stipulations on the legal age for marriage in their marriage laws. And according to the Marriage Law of the PRC, a man above the age of 22 and a woman above the age of 20 may enter into marriage. It shall be noted that according to Article 8 of the Interpretations of the Supreme People's Court on Issues Concerning the Application of the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China (I) enacted in 2001, "Where a party files a petition to the people's court for invalidating the marriage according to Article 10 of the Marriage Law, the people's court shall not grant the divorce if the cause for the invalidation of the marriage has ceased to exist at the time of the petition." Therefore, the marriage becomes valid if the spouse who was under the legal age for marriage at the time of the marriage has reached the legal age at the time of the claim for invalidation.

Although an invalid marriage does not satisfy the legal requirements, the spouses have completed the procedure of marriage registration, which has the legal effect of confirming the marriage relationship. Therefore, a marriage which does not satisfy the legal requirements may be declared invalid only after the competent authority confirms that it is invalid upon reviewing. In China, the people's court is the authority which has the power to declare a marriage invalid, and no other entity (including the marriage registration authority) or individual may do so. The people's court shall declare a marriage invalid in either of the following two cases: (1) The people's court shall review the claim for invalidation of a marriage filed by either spouse or any interested party, and shall deliver a verdict for invalidating the marriage in accordance with the law if it is confirmed that the marriage is invalid; or (2) If the people's court confirms that the marriage is invalid upon review in the hearing of a divorce case, it shall inform the spouses of the same and deliver a verdict for invalidating the marriage in accordance with the law. In case of a claim for invalidating a marriage or for divorce, the people's court shall deliver a verdict on the validity of the marriage, which shall not be subject to mediation. The verdict on the validity of marriage shall become effective once it is made.

According to the Interpretations of the Supreme People's Court on Issues Concerning the Application of the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China (I) enacted in 2001, The parties entitled to file a petition to the people's court for invalidating a marriage which has been registered include the spouses of the marriage and the interested parties. Such interested parties include: (1) Either spouse's close relatives or primary organization in case of a claim for invalidating a marriage on the grounds of bigamy; (2) Close relatives of the spouse married under the legal age for marriage in case of a claim for invalidating a marriage on the grounds of underage marriage; (3) Either spouse's close relatives in case of a claim for invalidating a marriage on the grounds of kinship prohibited from entering into marriage; and (4) Either spouse's close relatives living together with such spouse in case of a claim for invalidating a marriage on the grounds of such spouse's disease inappropriate for marriage which has not been cured.

"Close relative" is a concept which is often found in the law, And may include each of the spouses and their respective parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandparents-in-law, grandchildren, and grandchildren-in-law, according to "The Supreme People's Court on Issues Concerning the Application of the 'General Principles of the Civil Law of the People's Republic of China' (Trial)".

And according to the Interpretations of the Supreme People's Court on Issues Concerning the Application of the Marriage Law of the People's Republic of China (II), a claim for invalidating a marriage may be filed during the existence of the invalid marriage relationship or within one year after the death of either or both the spouses. If either spouse is deceased, the surviving spouse or any interested party may file a petition for invalidation; and if both the spouses are deceased, any interested party may file a petition for invalidation.

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