Which States Allow Child Marriage In USA?

Child marriage is a historical cultural practice. But, the USA state department has declared it a violation of human rights. It is considered a form of child sex abuse. In this article you will learn about the legality of child marriage in the USA.

What is Child Marriage?

Child marriage also known as underage marriage is a marriage in which at least one party is a child i.e. under the age of 18 years. The legal marriage age in the USA is determined by each state, territory, and district individually.


Is child marriage allowed in the USA?

Child marriages are allowed in  any of the following exceptional circumstances in the USA:

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

• If there is the consent of a court

• If there is the consent of the parents or legal guardian

• If the minor is pregnant

• If the minor girl has delivered a child

• If the minor gets emancipated

However, there are no exceptions for underage marriages and are not allowed in Delaware and New Jersey.

What are the Effects of child marriage on each gender?

According to some researchers, there are repercussions of child marriages on minor girls such as sexual abuse, pregnancy, and risk of injury or death in childbirth, decreased education, physical effects, psychological trauma, etc. which may last beyond adolescence.

  • Effects on Psychological health

Child marriage can cause several psychological traumatic effects on a child such as anxiety, depression or low self-esteem

  • Effects on Physical health

 Child marriages often result in adverse physical health. It may mostly result in early pregnancy or complications in childbirth as the body of a minor is not fully mature and they may face a risky pregnancy. The most common cause o f deaths of minor girls were due to complications in pregnancy

According to the UNICEF report in 2007, a 15-year-old girl is more vulnerable to die in pregnancy complications when compared to women in their twenties.

  • Effects on Education

Child marriage reduces the educational and job opportunity of a minor making them dependent on their spouse.

Boys are also married as a child, the effects of child marriage on boys are comparatively very less and it is more common among girls who are disproportionately affected.

Child marriage statistics

In the USA, there were about 200,000 child marriages between the years 2000-2015. The majority of these marriages were between a minor girl and an adult man. Only about 14% of the underage marriages took place between two minors. According to a data compilation:

• 67% of minors were 17 years old

• 29% of minors were 16 years old

• 4% of minors were 15 years old

• 1 % of minors were 14 years old and under

According to a survey the spousal age was:

• 60% between 18-20 years

• <3%  over 29 years

• About 400 cases above 40 years

• The youngest minor girls  to marry between 2000-2010 were three 10-year-old Tennessee girls  and

• The youngest minor boy was  11 years old  to a 27-year-old woman in Tennessee in 2006

America Youngest Child Brides & Groom

Which states allow child marriage in the USA?

From 2017 to 2019, several states in the USA have changed their child marriage laws to set a minimum age, to raise the minimum age for marriage, or to make the conditions more stringent under which an underage marriage may take place. As of May 2019, 34 states in the USA have set minimum age requirement statutes with few exceptions. In the absence of statutory minimum age, the minimum marriageable age may be concluded as12 for girls and 14 for boys.

Below Table Information From  Source Wikepedia

Name Of States Minimum Legal Age For Marriage Minimum Age For Marriage After Exceptions
Alabama 18 16
Alaska 18 14
Arizona 18 16
Arkansas 18 17
California 18 NA
Colorado 18 16
Connecticut 18 16
Delaware 18 18
Florida 18 17
Georgia 18 17
Hawaii 18 15
Idaho 18 16
Illinois 18 16
Indiana 18 15
Iowa 18 16
Kansas 18 15
Kentucky 18 17
Louisiana 18 16
Maryland 18 15
Massachusetts 18 NA
Michigan 18 NA
Minnesota 18 16
Mississippi 21 NA
Missouri 18 16
Montana 18 16
Nebraska 19 17
Nevada 18 17
New Hampshire 18 16
New Mexico 18 NA
New Jersey 18 18
New York 18 17
North Carolina 18 14
North Dakota 18 16
Ohio 18 17
Oklahoma 18 NA
Oregon 18 17
Pennsylvania 18 NA
Rhode Island 18 16
South Carolina 18 16
South Dakota 18 16
Tennessee 18 17
Texas 18 16
Utah 18 16
Vermont 18 16
Virginia 18 16
Washington 18 NA
West Virginia 18 NA
Wisconsin 18 16
Wyoming 18 NA

Is Child marriage Legal in California?

Since January 1, 2019 California marriage laws requires parents and partner of a minor child have to meet court  officials who assess whether the underage marriage is under any abuse or coercion. A 30 days waiting period is required by minors before getting marries. However there is exception when the minor becomes 17 years old, high school graduate or the minor girl becomes pregnant.

Is Child marriage Legal in Texas?

Texas, the state with the second-highest rate of  Child Marriage next to West Virginia , has finally banned It. Since 2017, Texas child marriage laws the minimum age to get legally married is 18 years . However, minors aged 16–17 years who are emancipated have an exemption to marry legally.

In Which states of the USA can you marry at 12?

The child marriage laws in the USA have set a minimum age for a minor to get married with the parental consent from 12 – 17 years. In the USA, minors may get married when they are under the age of sexual consent, sixteen to eighteen for most states .  However, in few states the minimum marriage age for boys and girls is separate.

For example: Massachusetts has the lowest minimum marriage age of 14 years for boys and 12 years for girls with the consent of parents.

Is child marriage a Forced marriage or sex trafficking?

A child marriage may legally or unofficially be a forced marriage or sex trafficking in some cases resulting in sexual abuse. However, there are marriage laws in the USA to prevent such abuse to a child.

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