It is currently legal for first cousins to marry in Massachusetts.
The Commonwealth laws prevent closer relationships such as siblings.
Couples must submit a notice of intent to get married. The form may ask if the couple are related. However, a first cousin relationship is not an impediment.
This article looks at what you need to know about first cousin marriages in Massachusetts.
What You Should Know About First Cousin Marriage In Massachusetts
Massachusetts requires that you apply to get married within the Commonwealth.
Other states refer to a marriage license. With Massachussets, you fill out a Notice Of Intention Of Marriage.
This must be completed in the presence of a clerk at a courthouse, a town hall, or an approved licensing office.
Are you a resident?
You don’t have to be a resident in the Commonweath. But be aware that some other states in the U.S. may not recognize your marriage if they prohibit first cousin unions.
Regardless of whether you are a resident or not, you can apply in any county. This doesn’t need to be where your marriage will take place, or even where you live.
Appointment or walk-in?
In most places, you can visit the town hall or courthouse and sit down with a clerk. You both must attend.
Suffolk County is an exception. It includes Boston, which of course is a big population. The process there involves scheduling an appointment beforehand.
The clerk will send you out a pre-intention form. You will bring this to your meeting at city hall.
Does the Massachusetts application form ask if you’re related?
Some states have a section in their forms where you must state a relationship e.g. first cousin.
We reviewed the application form available in 2022. It asks for this information.
Here’s a picture of the relevant section of the form. Don’t worry about this. Just specify that it’s a first cousin relationship.
Be prepared for the possibility that the clerk may ask you to further explain your relationship. You will just need to clarify whether which of your parents are siblings.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Massachusetts
All types of cousins can get married in Massachusetts, including:
If you’re not clear on what these relationships are, click on the links above. You’ll find full explanations and examples.
It’s important to be sure that your partner is your cousin and not a half-sibling. Half siblings aren’t allowed to marry in Massachusetts.
If you’re unsure about what this relationship means, check out our article on half siblings. It explains the relationship in clear terms and pictures.
Who Can’t Get Married In Massachusetts?
The Massachusetts marriage laws has quite a long list of relationships that are prohibited.
This is for men:
No man shall marry his mother, grandmother, daughter, granddaughter, sister, stepmother, grandfather’s wife, grandson’s wife, wife’s mother, wife’s grandmother, wife’s daughter, wife’s granddaughter, brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter, father’s sister or mother’s sister.Massachussets laws (first section)
This is for women:
No woman shall marry her father, grandfather, son, grandson, brother, stepfather, grandmother’s husband, daughter’s husband, granddaughter’s husband, husband’s grandfather, husband’s son, husband’s grandson, brother’s son, sister’s son, father’s brother or mother’s brother.Massachussets laws (second section)
Whew, that’s quite a lot! But you’ve probably noticed that first cousins aren’t mentioned.
Why first cousins are legal
Massachusetts laws don’t say explicitly that first cousins can marry. They simply don’t mention the relationship in their restrictions.
That means you are good to go!
Do Cousins Travel To Massachusetts To Get Married?
Massachusetts is bordered by Connecticut, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Four of these five states allow first cousin marriage (New Hampshire is the exception).
There are other states that share borders with more neighbors that prohibit such marriages. Occasionally, legislators or media express concern that hordes of out-of-state cousins are racing into the state to get legally married.
I don’t find any such concerns expressed in Massachusetts. That’s probably because most of the surrounding states have similar laws.
Our overview of first cousin marriage in the United States has a table that lists every state and whether they allow or forbid it.
Roman Catholic Marriages
If you want to celebrate your Massachusetts wedding in a Roman Catholic church, you will face a separate hurdle.
Historically, the Catholic Church hasn’t encouraged first cousin marriages. However, the church laws have been relaxed somewhat in recent years.
There is a process that first cousins need to go through with the hierarchy in order to get permission to marry in a church ceremony. This is known as a dispensation.
You will get the details in our article that explains first cousins (scroll down to the bottom).
What about second cousins?
Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage.
We suggest that you explain the second cousin relationship to your priest before the service. This means there will be no confusion for the celebrant if there is mention of “cousins” during casual conversation later.
If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, check out our article that explains the second cousin relationship. It has diagrams that make it clear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does Massachusetts allow relatives to marry?
Massachusetts does not allow close relatives to marry.
More distant relatives such as first and second cousins are allowed to marry in the state.
Can you marry a sibling in Massachusetts?
Massachusetts does not allow siblings to marry. Half-siblings are also not allowed to marry in the state.
Is it legal to marry your second cousin in Massachusetts?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in Massachusetts.
Other cousin relationships, such as first and third cousins, are also allowed to marry in the state.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Delaware may have more current or accurate information.
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