Having found ourselves recently talking about the issue surrounding the Mormon sect that had their children abducted, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the states around the USA and what their ages for marriage are. Throughout the world it seems that the youngest you can get married is puberty– in Sudan. South Africa goes as low as 12 for females.
The standard, both in the States and globally, is 18, with 16 being the case with parental consent. The table below shows the states that deviate from this norm:
|State||Parental Consent Age||Age Without Consent|
|Arizona||no minimum – need approval of superior court judge and parental consent under 16||18|
|Arkansas||16 females, 17 males||18|
|California||no minimum – under 18 need superior court judge and parental consent||18|
|Massachusetts||16 with parental and judicial consent||18|
|Michigan||16, 15 and under with parental consent and probate judge approval||18|
|Mississippi||17 for males, 15 for females||21|
|New Hampshire||14 for males, 13 for females, in cases of “special cause” with parental consent and court permission||18|
|New York||16, 14 with parental and judicial consent||18|
|North Carolina||16, unlimited in the case of pregnancy or birth of a child||18|
|Ohio||16 for females||18|
|Pennsylvania||16, unlimited with parental consent and approval of a Judge of the Orphan’s Court||18|
|Rhode Island||16 for females||18|
|Texas||16, younger with judicial consent or if previously married and divorced||18|
|Utah||16, with court approval 15||18|
|Washington||17, may be waived by superior court judge||18|
|West Virginia||16, unspecified limit with parental and judicial consent||18|
As you can see, many of these have unlimited cases. Some actually make the defaults higher. California and New York surprised me. That California is unlimited, and New York would allow 14 year olds to marry is interesting considering the liberal tendencies of those states and the normal liberal/conservative stereotypes.
Perhaps it’s just that either there are laws on the books we no longer believe and the ages should be raised (this happened with Alabama). This would mean that at one time we thought these to be acceptable ages and now we do not– which would probably mean we’ve delayed maturation.
But it could just be that there’s a difference of opinion in regards to age that one is “ready to marry.” Everyone is different. I know of no parent that is ready for their child to date– let alone get married– and the longer that we can put that off the better! However, I also know that when you are that age that you always believe you’re ready for anything. And I’m sure that there are good and bad cases surrounding marriage at that age.
One last comment: Perhaps we can see why the members of this sect were forcing the new brides to consummate their marriage before they left the building– that some states give exceptions to pregnant women.
However, the wrinkle here is that, in the cases of polygamy, they weren’t truly married. The USA doesn’t allow for bigamy or polygamy, so by strictest definition, the polygamists were committing adultery, and the marriage laws do not apply.