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Carabetta v. Carabetta - 182 Conn. 344, 438 A.2d 109 (1980)

Rule:

As to solemnization, a governing statute section, entitled who may join persons in marriage, provides: All judges and justices of the peace may join persons in marriage and all ordained or licensed clergymen belonging to the state or any other state so long as they continue in the work of the ministry may join persons in marriage and all marriages attempted to be celebrated by any other person shall be void; but all marriages, which shall be solemnized according to the forms and usages of any religious denomination in the state shall be valid. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 7306 (Rev. 1949), as amended by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 1281b (Supp. 1951) and by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 2251c (Supp. 1953). The celebration of a marriage by a person not authorized by this section to do so, renders a marriage void.

Facts:

Plaintiff, Evelyn B. Carabetta, and the defendant, Joseph F. Carabetta were duly married in a church, but they did not obtain a marriage license. Thereafter, the couple lived together and raised four children together, all of whose birth certificates listed Joseph as their father. When Evelyn filed for a divorce, Joseph contended that they were not legally married, even though he had never before disputed the legitimacy of the marriage. The trial court determined that the parties had never been legally married and granted Joseph’s motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter. Evelyn appealed.

Issue:

Is a marriage, solemnized according to an appropriate religious ceremony but without compliance with the statutory requirement of a marriage license, void under Connecticut law?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that a marriage duly solemnized but deficient for want of a marriage license was not void for lack of a marriage license, but was voidable. According to the Court, in the absence of express language in the governing statute declaring a marriage void for failure to observe a statutory requirement, such a marriage, though imperfect, was dissoluble rather than void. In the case at bar, the Connecticut Legislature's failure to expressly characterize as void a marriage properly celebrated without a license meant that such a marriage was not invalid.

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