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by Abigail Van Buren

Fact That's Fiction Fails to Nullify Young Marriage

DEAR ABBY: I married at the age of 14. My husband was 18. We both lied about our ages, swearing that I was 18 and he was 21. Our marriage lasted 14 years, during which time we had three lovely children, and then a very messy divorce!

Two years later, I married a truly wonderful man. We have been married 24 years.

Now I find that my first marriage wasn't legal because I didn't know that any lie on a marriage license makes it null and void.

Also, Arkansas law states that no one under the age of 16 can get married, even with parental consent. (Check with a lawyer.)

Please, Abby, let people know about these laws. It's not only Arkansas that has this law, it's almost every state. Maybe we can save some other poor soul from going through what I did 26 years ago. The hurt never goes away, even if you do find out 26 years later. I wish someone would have let me know of those laws! -- ENLIGHTENED IN MYRTLE CREEK, ORE.

DEAR ENLIGHTENED: According to the offices of the County Clerk and the County Attorney in Little Rock, Ark., couples under the age of 17 may marry, but only with parental consent. And if they are 15 and under, they may marry only if they are expecting a child -- or are already the parents of a baby. In either case, parental consent is needed, and if they already have had their baby, they must also provide the birth certificate.

Also -- it is NOT TRUE that "any lie" on a marriage certificate makes it null and void! It is understood that any fact used by consenting persons at the time a standard marriage license is issued (even if incorrect) does not automatically void the marriage license.

DEAR ABBY: My father died when I was 4, and my mother remarried.

When I was 13, my mother died, leaving my brother and me to live with our alcoholic stepfather. This is a man for whom I have no love or respect -- only sympathy. He abused me mentally and also physically, so I moved out when I was 18.

Now I am making out my wedding invitation list. Do I have to invite him? I don't want to hurt his feelings, but I am afraid of how he will act and what he may say to other guests. My stepfather and I haven't spoken in years. He makes no effort, and the farther I stay away from him, the happier I am.

Please help me out. I want to do the right thing, but I don't want him to spoil my wedding day. -- WHAT TO DO

DEAR WHAT TO DO: You answered your own question when you wrote: "The farther I stay away from him, the happier I am," and signed off with, "I don't want him to spoil my wedding day."

Now, give yourself a wedding gift and don't risk inviting anyone who may spoil your wedding day.

Hot off the press -- Abby's new booklet, "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a long, business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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