What is the smallest age to get married?
GN 00302.570 Marriage Records
The application for a marriage license filed before a license is issued will normally call for the bride’s and groom’s DB or age. The age or DB may also be shown on the marriage certificate itself.
B. Purpose of chart
The chart which follows in E. below shows the minimum legal age for marrying without consent of parent or guardian in effect in each State at various time internals since 1900. This chart will alert you to those situations in which the applicant may have given an incorrect age in order to marry without parental consent.
The chart is furnished solely for use in considering the probative value of a marriage record as proof of age. It should not be used to determine the validity or invalidity of a particular marriage.
No information is given regarding certain specific exceptions in some State laws such as previous marriages, pregnancy, no parent or guardian competent to act, etc.
E. Chart : Minimum age for marriage without parental consent
|State||Age of Male||Age of Female||Effective Dates|
|Alaska||21||18||1917 — present|
|California||21||18||7/29/21 — present|
|Connecticut||—||—||law not specific|
|District of Columbia||21||18||1901-present|
|Hawaii||20||18||6/6/69 — present|
|20||20||1929 — 6/5/69|
|Kansas||21||18||1905 — present|
|Maryland||21||18||1920 — present|
|Mississippi||—||—||no requisite age from 7/1/58 — present|
|Nebraska||21||21||1921 — present|
|New Hampshire||20||18||1923 -present|
|New York||18||18||9/1/74 -present|
|21||18||1907 — 8/1/74|
|21||21||1923 — 1973|
|Rhode Island||—||—||law not specific|
|South Carolina||18||18||1911 -present|
|18||18||1919 — 1936|
|Wyoming||—||—||law not specific|
No Minimum Age to Marry in CA with Parental, Judicial OK
Every state in the U.S. has a minimum age at which someone can marry without first getting parental and/or judicial approval. All states except two share the same marital age of consent: 18 years old. Nebraska has a minimum consent age of 19. The age in Mississippi is 21.
That’s where the consistency ends. The minimum age at which someone can marry with permission varies significantly from state to state from as young as 12 (females in Massachusetts) to 17 (males in Arkansas and Mississippi). Six states ban underage marriage.
California, on the other hand, is among the few states with no minimum underage marriage age. Hypothetically, a child of any age could marry if authorized by a parent and the court.
Underage marriage without permission is grounds for an annulment in California. Anyone younger than 18 when they married without permission can ask for an annulment within four years after their 18 th birthday.
California Is Among States with the Most Child Marriages
Just like the laws, the number of child marriages differs from state to state. According to the Pew Research Center, California has the sixth-highest rate of underage marriages.
In Pew’s analysis of American Community Survey data in 2016, 5.5 out of 1,000 Californians younger than 18 are married. West Virginia had the highest rate at 7.1. Alaska had the fewest at 1.8. The national average was determined to be 4.6.
Latest Legislative Attempt Failed
In 2021, AB 1286 was introduced in the California Legislature by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris. The bill did not add a minimum minor age but aimed to improve transparency. The legislation would require counties to report minor marriages four times per year instead of annually. The state registrar would also be tasked with reporting the data online and to the legislature. A minor marriage is one where at least one of the parties was younger than 18.
Void vs. Voidable Marriages
California law provides for two types of marriages to be annulled: void and voidable marriages.
Void marriages are never legal to begin with in California:
- Marriages of incest between close blood relatives (parent-child, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews)
- Bigamous marriages where one spouse is already married to someone else.
A judge can annul a void marriage.
Voidable marriages are ones where the judge decides whether the union is legal:
- Underage marriages
- Unsound mind
- One party is unable to consummate the marriage
- One party is still married to someone that they thought was dead
- Forced marriage
A marriage that is short in duration does not qualify for an annulment without one of the above factors also being true.
Most annulment petitions must be filed within four years of the marriage or discovery of the grounds.
A California divorce requires one of the spouses live in the state for at least six months before filing. Annulment petitions have no such residency requirement. There is also no six-month waiting period to be declared single as in a divorce. Both parties are single once the court completes the final annulment papers.
Legal separation and divorce are options for those not qualifying for or denied an annulment.
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Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages
Desiring, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations, to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,
Recalling that article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that:
(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses,
Recalling further that the General Assembly of the United Nations declared, by resolution 843 (IX) of 17 December 1954, that certain customs, ancient laws and practices relating to marriage and the family were inconsistent with the principles set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
Reaffirming that all States, including those which have or assume responsibility for the administration of Non-Self-Governing and Trust Territories until their achievement of independence, should take all appropriate measures with a view to abolishing such customs, ancient laws and practices by ensuring, inter alia , complete freedom in the choice of a spouse, eliminating completely child marriages and the betrothal of young girls before the age of puberty, establishing appropriate penalties where necessary and establishing a civil or other register in which all marriages will be recorded,
Hereby agree as hereinafter provided:
1. No marriage shall be legally entered into without the full and free consent of both parties, such consent to be expressed by them in person after due publicity and in the presence of the authority competent to solemnize the marriage and of witnesses, as prescribed by law.
2. Notwithstanding anything in paragraph 1 above, it shall not be necessary for one of the parties to be present when the competent authority is satisfied that the circumstances are exceptional and that the party has, before a competent authority and in such manner as may be prescribed by law, expressed and not withdrawn consent.
States Parties to the present Convention shall take legislative action to specify a minimum age for marriage. No marriage shall be legally entered into by any person under this age, except where a competent authority has granted a dispensation as to age, for serious reasons, in the interest of the intending spouses.
All marriages shall be registered in an appropriate official register by the competent authority.
1. The present Convention shall, until 31 December 1963, be open for signature on behalf of all States Members of the United Nations or members of any of the specialized agencies, and of any other State invited by the General Assembly of the United Nations to become a Party to the Convention.
2. The present Convention is subject to ratification. The instruments of ratification shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
1. The present Convention shall be open for accession to all States referred to in article 4, paragraph 1.
2. Accession shall be effected by the deposit of an instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
1. The present Convention shall come into force on the ninetieth day following the date of deposit of the eighth instrument of ratification or accession.
2. For each State ratifying or acceding to the Convention after the deposit of the eighth instrument of ratification or accession, the Convention shall enter into force on the ninetieth day after deposit by such State of its instrument of ratification or accession.
1. Any Contracting State may denounce the present Convention by written notification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Denunciation shall take effect one year after the date of receipt of the notification by the Secretary-General.
2. The present Convention shall cease to be in force as from the date when the denunciation which reduces the number of Parties to less than eight becomes effective.
Any dispute which may arise between any two or more Contracting States concerning the interpretation or application of the present Convention which is not settled by negotiation shall, at the request of all the parties to the dispute, be referred to the International Court of Justice for decision, unless the parties agree to another mode of settlement.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall notify all States Members of the United Nations and the non-member States contemplated in article 4, paragraph 1, of the present Convention of the following:
(a) Signatures and instruments of ratification received in accordance with article 4;
(b) Instruments of accession received in accordance with article 5;
(c) The date upon which the Convention enters into force in accordance with article 6;
(d) Notifications of denunciation received in accordance with article 7, paragraph l;
(e) Abrogation in accordance with article 7, paragraph 2.
1. The present Convention, of which the Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts shall be equally authentic, shall be deposited in the archives of the United Nations.
2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall transmit a certified copy of the Convention to all States Members of the United Nations and to the non-member States contemplated in article 4, paragraph 1.
- Child and forced marriages