A pressing family law problem is the more than 200,000 children married in the United States. No, that’s not a statistic from frontier life in the 1800s, that covers marriages over the past 15-years. What is the status of child marriages?
According to the Independent there is a surprising number of child marriages: three 10-year-old girls and an 11-year-old boy were among the youngest to wed on the U.S., under legal loopholes which allow minors to marry in certain circumstances.
The minimum age for marriage across most of the US is 18, but every state has exemptions – such as parental consent or pregnancy – which allow younger children to tie the knot.
In May, the high-profile Republican governor for New Jersey declined to sign into law a bill that would have made New Jersey the first to ban child marriages without exception. Chris Christie claimed it would conflict with religious customs.
At least 207,468 minors married in the US between 2000 and 2015. The true figure is likely to be much higher because 10 states provided no or incomplete statistics.
Florida Child Marriages
I’ve written about marriage and divorce before. Many people would be embarrassed to know that Florida actually allows child marriages.
Our statutes say that if anyone seeking a marriage license is under the age of 18, all that’s required is the written consent of the parents. Even written consent isn’t required if the parent is deceased, or the child was previously married.
Currently, there is a Florida Senate bill which would prohibit a judge or clerk from issuing a marriage license to any person under the age of 18.
The current exceptions that permit a minor to marry, such as parental consent, the fact that a couple already has a child, or a physician’s written verification of a pregnancy, would be repealed. This bill would end child marriages in Florida.
The Scourge of Child Marriages
The problem of child marriages is concerning.
Between 70% and 80% of marriages involving individuals under age 18 end in divorce, and getting married and later divorcing can more than double the likelihood of poverty.
Children are trapped, because they face many obstacles when they try to resist or escape marriages that adults forced into marriage don’t.
Unless a child is legally emancipated – given the rights of an adult – a child has very limited rights, leaving children trapped in a marriage with an adult.
Last month New York banned children under 17 from marrying. Previously minors as young as 14 were allowed to in New York.
The Independent article is here.