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The Marriage of Figaro and How Marrying Your Mother is Illegal

Opera provides many colorful moments relevant to family law. One such opera is the “Marriage of Figaro,” composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. Upshot - you don’t have to marry your mother!

In this story, Figaro and Susanna are servants to Count and Countess Almaviva. The two are planning their wedding. Figaro has problems, however. Figaro borrowed money from Marcellina and did not pay it back. She demands that he marry her if he does not pay back the money. She even has a contract to this effect. Figaro is stuck.

The Count, who wants to seduce Susanna, sees the contract and demands that Figaro honor his promise.

When Figaro is confronted by Marcellina about the marriage, he states he can’t marry without the consent of his parents for whom he has been searching for years after being abducted. He shows off a birth mark on his arm. Marcellina immediately recognizes that Figaro is her long lost son. The contract is dissolved. Figaro and Susanna marry.

It is a good thing Marcellina let the marriage contract fall. Contracts for marriage to pay debts are illegal. But, importantly for the State of California, incestuous marriages are also illegal.

If a person files for a nullity and if the court grants a judgment of annulment, it means that the parties were never married. However, even without a judgment of a nullity certain people may not be legally married to each other and it is as if the marriage doesn’t exist. Incestuous marriage is a type of void marriage under Family Code 2200.

Family Code Section 2200 states:

Marriages between parents and children, ancestors and descendants of every degree, and between siblings of the half as well as the whole blood, and between uncles or aunts and nieces or nephews, are incestuous, and void from the beginning, whether the relationship is legitimate or illegitimate.

This means that a marriage between certain family members is automatically void and does not exist. Figaro was off the hook. He didn’t have to marry his mother and couldn’t do so legally even if he wanted to.

Please enjoy snippets of the San Francisco Opera’s production of the Marriage of Figaro HERE available on their official channel on Youtube and consider making a donation to this fabulous opera company HERE. Every bit of support makes a difference in this challenging time.

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