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New York Domestic Relations Law and Incest

New York’s law on domestic relations is codified in the Domestic Relations Law which consists of 16 Articles which are further divided into 272 Sections. Substantive Sections include Sections 5 through 61 (marriages and rights of spouses); Sections 71 through 78-A (child custody); Sections 80 through 85 (guardianship); Sections 109 through 117 (adoption); Sections 121 through 124 (surrogate parenting contracts); Sections 140 through 146 (marriage annulment); Section 170 through 221 (divorce, separation, and dissolution of marriage); and Sections 230 through 255 (court rules and procedures for New York family law court). Of particular note is that only since 2010 has New York allowed for “no fault” divorces. See Section 170. Additionally, in 2011 New York law recognized and allowed same sex marriages. See Section 10-A.

Like all other states, New York has a statute which prohibits marriage between individuals who have a certain level of familial relationship among them. Section 5 declares an incestuous marriage to be void if the marriage is between the following two individuals: ancestor and descendant; brother and sister (either whole or half-blood); and uncle and niece or an aunt and nephew.

With respect to the first category of ancestor or descendant, that includes individuals such as a parent and child or a grandparent and grandchild. The second category of brother and sister concerns siblings of the same parents (whole blood) or siblings that share one common parent (half-blood). The third category of aunts and uncles and nephews and nieces is self-explanatory at least on its face, although subsequent case law reflects some ambiguity in this subsection. Section 5 does not draw any distinction as to whether the relatives attempting to join in an incestuous marriage were born in or out of wedlock.

Not only does Section 5 void any marriage between the above individuals, but imposes criminal punishments for incestuous marriage. Individuals who attempt to enter into an incestuous marriage can be fined between $50.00 and $100.00.  Additionally, the court has the discretion to imprison the individuals for up to six months. Finally, any person who knowingly and willfully tries to marry two individuals into an incestuous marriage as defined by Section 5 will be guilty of a misdemeanor and can be punished with the same fine (between $50.00 and $100.00) and discretionary prison term (up to six months).

Jayson Lutzky is an attorney with over 31 years of legal experience. He has handled many cases that involved the Domestic Relations Law. He represents clients in uncontested divorces, contested divorces, child support cases, child custody cases, visitation cases and spousal support cases. Mr. Lutzky offers free in-person consultations. To set up a confidential appointment, call 718-329-9500. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more about divorce law and Mr. Lutzky.

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