Imagine a Judge giving you a choice – get married or go to jail. This is essentially what happened to a Texas man who pleaded guilty to an assault charge of punching his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend. Judge orders man to get married or go to jail, by Tony Marco, cnn.com, August 8, 2015. In that case, the Judge gave the man the choice between spending 15 days in jail, or two years of probation. One of the probation terms was getting married to his girlfriend within 30 days. Before the Judge executed the order, he apparently asked both parties if they were OK with that term of probation, and they both said yes. Accordingly, the order was entered and they got married shortly thereafter.
While the couple themselves seemed to be OK with the ordered marriage, the woman’s father was less than pleased and tried to talk them out of it. According to the father, “Judge Rogers stepped into my family and tried to tell them what to do without any regard for me or anything. This isn’t his decision. I told them they didn’t have to do this, but they were afraid. They are young and they didn’t now that they had any other options.” The father may very well be correct.
In Georgia, “[t]o constitute an actual contract of marriage, the parties must consent thereto voluntarily…” O.C.G.A. § 19-3-4.
Though this case is in Texas, it is likely that that state has similar laws regarding entering into marriage voluntarily. In this case, though both parties indicated that they were “OK” getting married, it is unknown if they would have actually gotten married if not for the probation terms. If they woman’s father is correct that the couple didn’t know they had any other options, this seems to indicate that they felt they had to get married and, as such, didn’t do so completely voluntarily. As such, they may not have a valid marriage.
If, however, the marriage does prove to be valid, they would certainly have a good ground for divorce if they lived in Georgia. One ground for divorce in Georgia is “force, menace, duress, or fraud in obtaining the marriage.” O.G.C.A. § 19-5-3(4). Here, there was certainly duress as the man was set to go to jail if the parties did not get married within 30 days. Thus, they would easily be able to obtain a divorce if they chose to do so.