Marriage Fraud

Marriage Fraud


This Article examines the astonishing array of doctrines used to determine what constitutes marriage fraud. It begins by locating the traditional nineteenth-century annulment-by-fraud doctrine within the realm of contract fraud, observing that in the family law context fraudulent marriages were voidable solely at the option of the injured party. The Article then explains how, in the twentieth century, a massive expansion of public benefits tied to marriage prompted new marriage fraud doctrines to develop in various areas of the law, shifting the concept of the injured party from the defrauded spouse to the public at large. It proposes a framework for understanding these new doctrines by demonstrating that courts apply different tests for finding fraud depending on the value of the benefit sought compared to the cost to the individual of using marriage to obtain it. Furthermore, the Article argues that marriage is an ineffective means for distributing public benefits that serve specific objectives; in other words, marriage is being asked to do too much work. As a possible response to this problem, the Article concludes that lawmakers could disaggregate the components of marriage to which they attach public benefits. This would improve the efficacy of public benefits distribution without entirely dismantling the institution of marriage or jeopardizing the stability that it may provide to society.

 

PDF

More in this Issue

Why Party Democrats Need Popular Democracy and Popular Democrats Need Parties

Too often, popular political power-whether it is in the form of direct democracy or other more innovative forays in participatory or deliberative democracy-presents itself principally as a counterweight to the political power parties wield. Yet setting up “popular democracy” and “party democracy” in opposition to one another in the American political landscape is not only […]

The Birth of Death: Stillborn Birth Certificates and the Problem for Law

Stillbirth is a confounding event, a reproductive moment that at once combines birth and death. This Essay discusses the complications of this simultaneity as a social experience and as a matter of law. While traditionally, stillbirth didn’t count for much on either score, this is no longer the case. Familiarity with fetal life through obstetric […]

Drinking Water and Exclusion: A Case Study from California’s Central Valley

The American West is notorious for its water wars, and California’s complex water allocation and governance challenges serve as a bellwether for contemporary water governance across western states. Policy makers and environmental advocates typically represent California’s water woes as a regulatory problem-a failure to balance the needs of growing urban populations with ecological preservation and […]

The Uneven Bulwark: How (and Why) Criminal Jury Trial Rates Vary by State

Forty-five years since the U.S. Supreme Court first recognized the right to a criminal jury trial as “fundamental to the American scheme of justice,” jury trial rates (the prevalence of jury trials relative to bench trials) in American criminal adjudication actually vary dramatically by state. A sizable body of scholarship has generally explored the decrease […]

Rules, Principles, and the Competition to Enforce the Securities Law

Though the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the primary securities enforcer, multiple enforcers are active in enforcing the securities laws. Some scholars argue that enforcement should be centralized to eliminate or control enforcers with incentives to overenforce, while others contend that competition checks the SEC from a tendency to underenforce. The debate is characterized […]