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Tennessee Statute section 36-3-101, which addresses the consanguinity of parties to a marriage, permits marriage between first cousins without requiring that they be at least sixty-five years of age. Indiana's recognition of the existence of a foreign marriage is a matter of comity. Additionally, no statute such as Indiana Code section 31-11-1-1(b) exists to establish that a marriage such as the parties’ marriage, in this case, violates Indiana's public policy. As a matter of comity, Indiana can choose to recognize Tennessee marriages between first cousins, even though such a marriage could not be validly contracted between residents of Indiana.
The parties were first cousins. Although Indiana did not recognize marriages between first cousins younger than age 65, Tennessee did. The parties had moved to Tennessee and were married. Plaintiff-husband, John C. Mason, argued that the trial court erred in ruling that the marriage was valid. He then filed for an annulment of his marriage to the defendant’s wife, Bonnie F. Mason. The defendant-wife in her counterclaim sought the dissolution of their marriage. The trial court dismissed the annulment complaint, dissolved the marriage, and awarded the defendant-wife all marital property, including four life insurance policies. The trial court also granted the wife’s attorney's fees which prompted the plaintiff-husband to appeal.
Did the trial court err in recognizing that the marriage was valid and dismissed the annulment complaint?
No. The judgment was affirmed.
The appellate court ruled that on comity grounds, Indiana accepted as legitimate a marriage validly contracted in the place where it was celebrated. Although Indiana did not recognize such marriages, they did not violate Indiana's public policy. The appellate court then ruled that the trial court did not err in recognition of the marriage. Nor did the trial court err in dismissing the husband's annulment complaint since he failed to appear on the day of trial. The failure to be present on the day of trial was a good ground for dismissal. The fact that the husband was incarcerated was irrelevant since the inability to pursue civil actions because of incarceration was an incident of punishment. The record provided ample evidence for the trial court to award all the marital assets to the wife, including the life insurance policies. This division was not an abuse of discretion.