A sham marriage is a marriage entered into by individuals in order to deceive society or a government agency regarding the couple’s purpose for getting married. A sham marriage may also be referred to as a fake or a fraudulent marriage.
There are different types of sham marriages. One type of this kind of marriage is called a marriage blanc.
What is a Marriage Blanc?
The phrase “marriage blanc” is French for a white marriage. This is a marriage that is not consummated by the individuals who got married.
The term consummation means that the husband and wife who got married went through all of the required steps in order to be legally married and following the marriage, they had consensual sexual intercourse.
In a marriage blanc, the individuals never engage in sexual intercourse following their marriage ceremony. However, in public, they continue to act as if they have a legal marriage.
Is Consummation a Requirement in Marriage?
Consummation may be a requirement in a marriage when one or both of the spouses were expecting to engage in sexual intercourse after they were married. Not engaging in sexual intercourse following a marriage ceremony may be grounds for an annulment or a divorce if this expectation existed.
A lack of consummation may also be an indication that there was some form of fraud which was occurring. This may include engaging in a sham marriage in order to fool an insurance company or for inheritance purposes.
What Could be the Cause of a Marriage Blanc?
A marriage blanc may be the result of either or both of the spouses not desiring to engage in sexual intercourse following the wedding ceremony. It may also be caused by:
- Being incapable of having sexual intercourse;
- Having a chronic illness;
- Having a chronic disability;
- Asexuality; or
Can I Seek an Annulment For a Marriage Blanc?
Yes, an individual can seek an annulment for a marriage blanc. An annulment is a legal proceeding that dissolves a marriage and treats the marriage as if it never existed.
The term annulment may be confused with a divorce, but the two are separate and distinct legal proceedings with different procedures and requirements. A divorce terminates a marriage that legally existed.
In order for an individual to obtain an annulment, they will need to comply with the procedural requirements that are set out in the laws of the state in which the individuals were married or in which they reside. The annulment process typically requires an individual to take some of the following steps:
- First, the individuals must make sure that they are eligible to file a petition for an annulment. An annulment may only be sought for certain specific reasons;
- Next, the individual seeking the annulment will need to fill out the forms for an annulment, which can be found by visiting their local family courthouse either online or in person. Each state will have different forms that are required to complete this process;
- Once the forms have been filed, the individual will need to serve them on the other party and then file a certificate of proof of service with the same family court where they filed the initial annulment forms;
- After the receiving party files a response to the petition for annulment and, if there are no counterclaims, then the court will schedule a date to hold a hearing during which the annulment will be discussed; and
- Depending on the facts of the case and the laws of that specific jurisdiction, the parties will likely be asked to present supplemental evidence to prove why the annulment should be granted. If no further details need to be examined, then the court may sign and issue a Decree of Annulment, which must then be filed with the court clerk to finalize the annulment process.
It is important to note that some states have a statute of limitations which will prescribe how long the individuals have to have their marriage annulled. In contrast, other states such as the State of New York do not place any restrictions on how long individuals have to annul a marriage.
What Happens When an Annulment is Granted?
Once an annulment is granted, the marriage will be treated as if it never occurred. Depending on the laws of the state in which the marriage occurred, items including property, assets, and finances will be divided up according to the laws of that state.
This means that the individual’s separate property will be distributed to its respective owner. It may also mean that shared property is equally or fairly divided between the individuals.
If there were children born into the marriage, the individuals will also be required to figure out child support and child custody arrangements. An annulment acts similar to a divorce in this manner.
Although there are some specific residency requirements in certain states, most individuals can obtain an annulment in the state in which they reside. Other states, however, may require the individuals to return to the jurisdiction in which they got married in order to obtain an annulment.
Are There Legal Consequences for a Marriage Blanc?
Yes, there may be legal consequences for a marriage blanc. For example, if a marriage is determined to be a sham for a specific purpose, such as to fool immigration officials, the individuals may face criminal charges.
Criminal punishments and consequences which may result from immigration fraud may include:
- Criminal fines;
- Paying retribution; and
- Having the marriage annulled.
If individuals enter into a marriage solely for the purposes of obtaining United States citizenship or obtaining a lawful permanent resident card, they are in violation of United States immigration laws. A marriage entered into for these reasons is known as a sham marriage or a green card marriage and is considered to be illegal.
If individuals have entered into a marriage for fraudulent immigration reasons, their marriage can be annulled. There are certain characteristics that are expected of a marriage which, if not present, may indicate a sham marriage. These include:
- Sharing a language and a religion;
- Living together;
- Taking vacations together;
- Celebrating important events together such as birthdays and holidays;
- Combining finances;
- Purchase homes and vehicles together; and
- Meeting each other’s families.
United States immigration authorities are on the lookout for sham marriages intended to defraud them. They require substantial proof that a marriage is real, which may include rental agreements, bank account statements, and birth certificates of any children.
United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may interview visa applicants as well as their spouses. These applications require a longer and more detailed interview process than other types of immigration applications.
In addition, there is a two year testing period for individuals who have been married less than two years at the time their green card application is approved or at the time when they enter the United States on their immigrant visa, called a conditional residence. If the individuals’ marriage is actually a sham marriage, they face penalties, as discussed above, which may include denial of their immigration applications and possible criminal prosecution.
Should I Talk to an Attorney if My Marriage has not been Consummated?
It is important to seek the assistance of a family attorney if your marriage has not been consummated. Your family attorney will explain the legal consequences of entering into a marriage blanc in order to defraud other individuals or government entities.
Your attorney can review your situation, advise you of your legal rights if your spouse does not desire to consummate the marriage. They can also represent you if you are required to appear in court.