In the United States, the marriage age is set by each state and territory, either by the common law or by individual statutes. Minimum marriage ages are set to prevent child marriages. An individual in the U.S. can marry without parental consent at the age of 18 in all states except for Nebraska, where the age is 19, the District of Columbia where it is 16, and Mississippi where the age of consent is 21.
In the past 15 years, about 200,000 minors have married. Underage marriage in the United States is not permitted unless there are exceptional circumstances including consent of a court clerk or judge, consent of the parents or legal guardians of the minor, if one of the parties is pregnant or has given birth to a child, or if the minor is emancipated. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware do not allow underage marriage in exceptional circumstances.
Most states have a minimum marriage age for minors with parental consent, ranging from 12-17 years old. However, California, Delaware, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia do not have minimum ages for minors to be allowed to marry with parental consent.
Some states have different minimum ages for males and females, with or without parental consent. For example, in Mississippi, the age of consent to marry with parental consent is 17 for males and 15 for females.
Here are some additional notes by state:
- California: must have written consent from at least one parent of each underage person
- Florida: the other party cannot be more than two years older than the minor
- Georgia: cannot be more than a four-year age difference and those who are 17 must take premarital education classes
- Missouri: a person over 21 cannot marry someone under 18
- Texas: must have a court order