Barbara T~ has applied for surviving divorced spouse's benefits on the record of Harry
C~, her first husband. However, before she and Harry divorced, Barbara married Ed
T~. You have asked whether Barbara's marriage to Ed was void or voidable. Because
Barbara's marriage to Ed was void, Barbara may be entitled to divorced spouse's benefits
on Harry's account.
On July 2, 1938, Barbara T~ was born. She married Harry C~ on July 26, 1957, in Indianapolis,
Indiana. On June 2, 1972, Barbara married Ed T~ in Indianapolis, Indiana. On November
11, 1978, Barbara and Harry were divorced. On October 14, 1992, Harry died domiciled
in Indiana. Barbara T~ recently filed a claim for surviving divorced spouse's benefits
on Harry's record.
At issue is whether Barbara T~'s marriage to Ed T~ was void or voidable. If it was
void, then Barbara may be entitled to surviving divorced spouse's benefits on Harry's
record, because her subsequent marriage to Ed would not exist under state law. However,
if it was voidable, then Barbara would not be entitled to benefits.
"A void marriage is a marriage which is legally nonexistent from the beginning under
State law, with or without a judicial decree. The parties to a void marriage are considered
never to have been husband and wife." POMS GN 00305.125(A). By contrast, "[a] voidable marriage is a marriage which is defective and can
be adjudged void (annulled), but which is considered valid unless and until declared
void as a result of a court action on its validity. In the absence of evidence that
a voidable marriage has been annulled, no development of the validity of the marriage
is required." POMS GN 00305.130(A). Accordingly, we look to State law to assess whether Barbara's subsequent marriage
to Ed is void.
Under Indiana's statutory law, "[a] marriage is void if either party to the marriage
had a wife or husband who was living when the marriage was solemnized." Ind. Code
§ 31-11-8-2 (2004). Indiana case law similarly recognizes that "[a] bigamous marriage
is void." Rance v. Rance, 587 N.E.2d 150, 151 (Ind. App. 1992). When Barbara married Ed T~, she was still
married to Harry C~. Therefore, Barbara's marriage to Ed is void under Indiana law.
It was unnecessary for Barbara to have a judicial decree to void her marriage to Ed.
This is recognized by POMS GN 00305.125(A), as discussed above, as well as by Indiana statutory law, Ind. Code § 31-11-8-1
(2004), and Indiana case law, Pry v. Pry, 75 N.E.2d 909, 913 (Ind. 1947); Rance, 587 N.E.2d at 151.
Therefore, Barbara's marriage to Ed was void and "good for no legal purpose." Pry, 75 N.E. 2d at 913. Because Barbara's marriage to Ed was void, Barbara may be entitled
to divorced spouse's benefits on Harry's account.