Marriage is often defined as a contract; but it is also more than a contract: it is a change of status, or condition. It is the complete performance of a prior contract to marry. For a valid contract of this kind, also called engagement, the parties must be competent, there must be agreement, the consent must be genuine, i. e., free from fraud, duress, or mistake, and the agreement must be free from illegality. The express contract, or promise to marry, is proved, like other contracts, by the express words of the parties or by circumstantial evidence from their conduct, though explicit words have not been spoken.
Formal requisites of marriage are fixed by law. They usually include marriage license, performance of a marriage ceremony by a magistrate or cleric, and return of the license with evidence that the marriage has been solemnized. Certain factors or conditions make a marriage voidable or void. A marriage before the age of consent, as fixed by law, is valid until voided. Persons below legal age must have consent of parents or guardians in a manner acknowledged by law in order to make their marriage valid. Marriage of insane persons is void. Impotence in itself is no bar to marriage, but if marital intercourse is impossible because of an incurable defect, marriage may be annulled.
Relationship of affinity or consanguinity (see also Impediments) is gen. regulated by law, each state specifying in which degrees of relationship marriage is prohibited. The tendency has been toward making regulations stricter (e.g., to require  a waiting period bet. application for and issuance of licenses and  blood tests and other examinations). AJCM
R. V. Mackay, Law of Marriage and Divorce Simplified, 2d ed. by I. Mandell (New York, 1954); J. W. Morland, Keezer on the Law of Marriage and Divorce, 3d ed. (Indianapolis, 1946); M. Weinberg, 1959 Cumulative Supplement to Keezer on the Law of Marriage and Divorce, Third Edition (Indianapolis, 1959).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission
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