PR 05405.020 Kentucky

A. PR 83-034 Validity of Marriage Between First Cousins In Kentucky

DATE: October 25, 1983


Under Kentucky law in effect prior to June 1946, marriage to a first cousin was not specifically prohibited although subsequent amendments to Section 402.010 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes prohibit such a marriage. As a result, we held that a marriage between first cousins which took place in February 1940 was valid under Kentucky law.

(Validity of Marriage Between First Cousins in Kentucky - RAIV, [A~], to Dir., Southeastern Programs Service Center, 10/25/83)


This case was referred for an opinion as to the validity of a marriage between first cousins under Kentucky State law prior to June 19, 1946. The pertinent facts of the case are as follows:

Allen B. B~ married Della B~ on February 24, 1940, at Whitesburg, Kentucky, under authority of a license issued by Clerk of County Court of Letcher, Kentucky. Della B~ initially filed application for wife's benefits October 19, 1966. She stated that she and her husband were first cousins—their fathers were brothers. No investigation of the relationship issue was carried out at that time. She was entitled to wife's benefits from November 1966 to July 1973, when the youngest child attained age 18.

Della B~ filed application June 22, 1983, for widow's benefits. She again stated that she and her husband were first cousins. Kentucky State Law as stated in Kentucky Revised Statutes Vol. 14, Ch. 402.010, indicates that marriages between persons more closely related than second cousins shall be "incestuous and void." The applicable statute was enacted June 19, 1946.

You have asked for our advice as to whether or not a marriage contracted between first cousins prior to June 19, 1946, is valid under Kentucky State law.

As of 1893 Section 402.010 of the Kentucky Revised Statutes provided that:

402.010 [2096] Incestuous marriages.

(1) A man shall not marry his mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, granddaughter, the widow or divorced wife of his father, grandfather, son or grandson, the daughter, granddaughter, mother or grandmother of his wife, the daughter or granddaughter of his brother or sister or the sister of his father or mother. A woman shall not marry her father, grandfather, brother, son or grandson; the widower or divorced husband of her mother, grandmother, daughter, or granddaughter; the son, grandson, father or grandfather of her husband; the son or grandson of her brother or sister; or the brother of her father or mother.

(2) If relationship is founded on marriage, the prohibition of subsection (1) shall continue notwithstanding the dissolution of the marriage by death or divorce, unless the divorce is for a cause that rendered the marriage originally illegal or void.

(3) This section includes illegitimate children and relatives.

(4) Marriages prohibited by this section are incestuous and void.

However, on June 19, 1946, this section was amended to provide as follows:

(1) No marriage shall be contracted between persons who are nearer of kin to each other by consanguinity, whether of the whole or half-blood, than second cousins.

(2) Marriages prohibited by subsection (1) of this section are incestuous and void.

The 1893 statute did not designate marriage between first cousins in the listing of incestuous marriages. Consequently, a marriage between first cousins was not prohibited under Kentucky law until June 1946. See e~. Ex Parte 247 S.W.2d 379 (1952). Since Ms. married her first cousin prior to the enactment of the amendments to Section 402.010, her marriage was valid under Kentucky law.

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PR 05405.020 - Kentucky - 05/22/2002
Batch run: 11/29/2012