Marriage age in the United States

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General age of marriage (without parental or court approval or other exceptions taken into account) (only shows the 50 states, no territories)
  18
  19
  21

The marriage age in the United States is set by each state and territory, either by statute or the common law applies. An individual can marry in the United States as of right, without parental consent or other authorization, on reaching 18 years of age in all states except in Nebraska, where the general marriage age is 19, and Mississippi where the general marriage age is 21. In Puerto Rico the general marriage age is also 21. In all these jurisdictions, these are also the ages of majority. In Alabama, however, the age of majority is 19, while the general marriage age is 18. When at least one of the marriage partners is under 18, the marriage is considered a child or underage marriage, and requires “exceptional circumstances” to be permitted. This may be parental consent or judicial authorisation, and there may be other requirements. In many states (but not in Massachusetts),[1] a child's marriage automatically emancipates the minor, or increases his or her legal rights beyond allowing the minor to consent to certain medical treatments.[2]

In all but two states, couples are allowed to marry at a younger age with parental consent or with judicial authorisation, with the minimum marriage age, when all exemptions are taken into account, being as low as 14, and potentially lower. The exceptions are Delaware and New Jersey which since 2018 have not had "exceptional circumstances" that permit underage marriages. American Samoa also does not allow underage marriages.

As at April 2019, 34 states have set an absolute minimum marriage age by statute, which vary between 14 and 17. In 2017, Connecticut and Texas became the 24th and 25th states to set a minimum age; in 2018, Florida, Kentucky, Arizona, Delaware, Tennessee, New Jersey, and Missouri became the 26th through 32nd states to set a minimum age; and in 2019 Ohio became the 33rd state, and Arkansas the 34th. In the remaining states, minors can marry with parental consent, and legal exceptions may exist which allow underage marriage, mostly requiring both parental and judicial authorisation, which is often allowed only in cases of pregnancy. 16 states do not have a legal minimum marriage age when judicial exceptions are taken into account. Although in these states there is no set minimum age by statute, the traditional common law minimum age is 14 for boys and 12 for girls - ages which have been confirmed by case law in some states.[3]

In 23 states, children under 16 can marry. Over the past 15 years, more than 200,000 minors married in US, and in Tennessee girls as young as 10 were married in 2001,[4] before the state set a minimum age of 17 in 2018.[5]

Underage marriage age by jurisdiction[edit]

In the 50 states[edit]

Every state except Delaware and New Jersey allows underage marriage in exceptional circumstances if one or more of the following circumstances apply:

  • consent of a court clerk or judge (sometimes the consent of a superior court judge, rather than a local judge, is required)
  • consent of the parents or legal guardians of the minor
  • if one of the parties is pregnant
  • if the minor has given birth to a child
  • if the minor is emancipated.

So, as of May 2019, in the 34 states that have set a marriage age by statute, the lower minimum marriage age when all exceptions are taken into account, are:

  • 2 states have a minimum age of 14: Alaska and North Carolina.
  • 4 states have a minimum age of 15.
  • 20 states have a minimum age of 16.
  • 8 states have a minimum age of 17.

From 2017[6][7] to 2019[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] several states changed their law to set a minimum age, or to raise their minimum age.

In Massachusetts the general marriage age is 18, but children may be married with judicial consent with no minimum age limit.[16] In the absence of any statutory minimum age, one opinion is that the minimum common law marriageable age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys may still apply.[17][18] Unlike many other states,[1] in Massachusetts a child's marriage does not automatically emancipate the minor, or increase his or her legal rights beyond allowing the minor to consent to certain medical treatments.[2]

In the territories and federal district[edit]

Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and its people are American citizens. The general marriage age in Puerto Rico is 21, however males aged 18 and females aged 16 can marry with exceptions.[19] In Guam, the general age is 18, but 16-year-olds can get married with the consent of at least one parent or guardian.[20] In American Samoa, since September 2018, the marriage age has been 18 for both sexes. Previously, the marriage age for girls was 14.[21] In the District of Columbia the general age is 18, but 16-year-olds may marry with exceptions.[19] In the U.S. Virgin Islands the marriage age is 14 for females and 16 for males.[22] In the Northern Mariana Islands males must be 18 to marry, while females can marry at 16 with parental consent.[23]

List[edit]

States[edit]

Name Minimum age Notes
Minimum statutory age after all exceptions[3] General marriage age
 Alabama[24] 16 18
 Alaska[25] 14 18
 Arizona[26][27] 16 18 Since 2018, the minimum age with approval of a superior court judge and parental consent is 16.[26][27]
 Arkansas[28] 17 18 Since April 2019, the minimum marriage age with both parental and judicial consent is explicitly 17 - by a bill passed by the Arkansas General Assembly and a Governor of Arkansas signature into law.[28]
 California[29] 17 18 Since January 1, 2019 partners and the parents of minors will have to meet separately with court officials who can assess whether there is abuse or coercion. Minors also will have to wait at least 30 days before getting married, unless they are 17 and a high school graduate or one of the partners is pregnant.[30][31]
 Colorado[32] 16[33] 18 Since August 2019, the absolute minimum age is explicitly 16 within Colorado - with a court order that is strictly "under the best interest of the child", parents and guardian permission from both parties and no more than a three year age gap (if one of the parties of the marriage is under 18).[34]
 Connecticut[35] 16 18 Since 2017, the minimum age is 16 with parental and judicial consent.[35]
 Delaware[25] 18 18 In May 2018, the Delaware child marriage ban bill was signed into law and went into effect immediately to implement a clear minimum age of 18 with no exceptions.[36][37][38]
 Florida 17 18 Since July 1, 2018 17-year-olds need both parental and judicial approval and may not marry anyone more than 2 years older.[39][40]
 Georgia[41] 17 18 In May 2019, the Georgia General Assembly passed a bill and the Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp signed a bill to raise the marriage age explicitly from 16 to 17, must be emancipated minors, must have completed a premarital education course, and cannot marry anyone more than four years older than themselves. The law went into effect on July 1, 2019.[42][43]
 Hawaii[25] 15 18 15-years-olds require both parental and judicial consent, and 16-17-years-olds require only parental consent.[44]
 Idaho[45][46] none 18 Minimum age 16 with the consent of the parent or guardian. "Children under the age of 16 can get a license to marry with written parental consent and a court order. A hearing will be held on the petition to marry under the age of 16 and the minors must be found physically and mentally developed to assume full marital and parental duties as proven by the testimony of a physician, or it must be in the “best interest of society” that the marriage be permitted."[46]
 Illinois[25] 16 18
 Indiana[47] 15 18 15 in the case of pregnancy with both parental and judicial consent.
 Iowa[25] 16 18
 Kansas[25] 15 18
 Kentucky[48] 17 18 Since 2018, 17-year-olds need judicial approval.[48]
 Louisiana[49] 16[50] 18 Since August 1 2019, individuals under 16 cannot get married at all within Louisiana, and anyone 16 or 17 can't marry someone three years or more older. Those 16- and 17-year-olds who want to marry will need permission from parents and a judge.[50]
 Maine[25] none 18
 Maryland[25] 15 18
 Massachusetts[25] none[51] 18 Consent can be just judicial, but is normally both parental and judicial. In the absence of any statutory minimum age, one opinion is that the traditional minimum common law marriageable age of 12 for girls and 14 for boys may still be in effect.[52][53]
 Michigan[54] none 18 16 with parental consent; as an exception a judge can allow a marriage under 16[54]
 Minnesota[25] 16 18
 Mississippi none 21 females 15–21 and males 17–21 can marry with parental consent alone[55]
 Missouri[56] 16[57] 18 In July 2018 a bill was signed into law by the Governor of Missouri, to implement an absolute minimum age of 16 and to ban people over 21 years old marrying people under the age of 18. The law went into effect on August 28, 2018.[57][58][59][60][56]
 Montana[25] 16 18
 Nebraska[25] 17 19
 Nevada[61] 17 (effective October 1, 2019)[62][63] 18 From October 1, 2019 within Nevada, 17 becomes the minimum age of marriage with 4 explicit requirements of - (1) parental or guardian consent; (2) proof of Nevada residence; (3) no more than a three year age gap between both parties; and (4) a court order within the state.[62][63]
 New Hampshire[64] 16 18 Since January 1, 2019 the absolute minimum age of marriage was legally set at 16.[65][66][67]
 New Jersey[68] 18 18 In June 2018, the New Jersey child marriage ban bill was signed into law and went into effect immediately to implement a clear minimum age of 18 with no exceptions.[68]
 New Mexico[25] none 18
 New York[69] 17 18 Since 2017, the minimum age is 17 with parental and judicial consent.
 North Carolina 14 18
  North Dakota[25] 16 18 16 with parental consent.[70]
 Ohio[71] 17 18 In 2019, the minimum age was set at 17, with judicial consent, in cases where the age difference is less than four years.[72]
 Oklahoma[25] none 18
 Oregon[25] 17 18 Consenting parent or guardian must accompany the applicant when applying for the marriage license.
 Pennsylvania[73] none 18 Under 16 years of age if a Judge of the Orphans Court "decides that it is to the best interest of the applicant and authorizes the issuance of the license."[74]
 South Carolina[25] 16/none (conflicting laws) 18 The age is 16, with parental consent, but there is controversy regarding the interpretation of the law, which some judges consider to allow marriage without an age limit in case of pregnancy.[75]
 South Dakota[25] 16 18
 Tennessee[76] 17 18 In 2018, the minimum age was set to 17 and no minor can marry someone more than 4 years older.[76][5]
 Texas[77] 16 18 Since 2017, the minimum age is 18, however emancipated minors aged 16–17 have an exemption to legally marry.[78][79][77]
 Utah[80] 16 18 The minimum marriage age was set at 16 in 2019.[80] 16 and 17yrs old need parental and judicial consent.[80]
 Vermont[25] 16 18
 Virginia 16 18 In 2016, VA made 18 the minimum age; and 16 with court approval in special cases[81][82]
 Washington[25] none 18 May be waived by superior court judge.[83]
 West Virginia[25] none 18 No minimum with both parental and judicial consent
 Wisconsin[25] 16 18
 Wyoming[25] none 18

District of Columbia and United States Territories[edit]

Name Minimum age Notes
Statutory age when all exceptions are taken into account[3] General age
 American Samoa[84] 18 18 In September 2018, governor Lolo Moliga signed into law a bill changing the marriage age for girls from 14 to 18. The marriage age is now 18 for both sexes.[84]
 District of Columbia[25] 16 18
 Guam[85] 16 18 The consent of at least one parent or guardian is required for a person aged 16 or 17 to get married.
 Northern Mariana Islands 16 (females) 18 (males) 18 Males at the time of marriage must be at least 18 years of age, while females aged 16–17 can marry with the consent of at least one parent or guardian.[86]
 Puerto Rico[25] 16 (females) 18 (males) 21
 U.S. Virgin Islands[87] 14 (females) 16 (males) 18

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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