States That Allow Child Marriage 2022

Child marriage is defined as any marriage or similar union, formal or informal, where one or both of the parties are under 18 years old. While the child in the marriage can be a girl or boy, a majority of child marriages are between a minor girl and a man. Around the world, 12 million girls are married before the age of 18 every year.

Child marriage, usually forced, happens in all different countries, cultures, and religions. It is increasingly being viewed as a form of child sexual abuse and some international organization s have declared it as a human rights violation. Child marriage is fueled by gender equality, poverty, traditions, and insecurity. Studies done in Africa and South Asia showed that the root causes and exacerbating factors that contribute to child marriage are traditions and gender-discriminatory norms rooted in patriarchal views and ideologies.

Minimum Marriage Age in the United States

In the United States, the marriage age is set by each state and territory, either by the common law or by individual statues. An individual in the United States can marry without parental consent at the age of 18 in all states. This is except for Nebraska, where the age is 19, and Mississippi and Puerto Rico, where the age is 21. In most U.S. states, the minimum marriage age for minors that have parental consent ranges from 12 to 17 years old. California and Mississippi do not have set minimum ages for minors to marry with parental consent. Some states have separate minimum ages for males and females, with or without parental consent. Massachusetts has the lowest minimum marriage ages with parental consent of 12 for girls and 14 for boys.

U.S. Child Marriage Facts

In the U.S., about 200,000 minors have married between 2000 and 2015. Of the 200,000 child marriages: 67% of the children were 17, 29% of the children were 16, 4% of the children were 15, less than 1% of children were 14 or under, and there were 51 cases of 13-year-olds getting married and 6 cases were of 12-year-olds. According to the Pew Research Center, child marriage is more common in the southern United States, including the states of West Virginia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, and North Carolina. California and Nevada have high incidences of child marriage as well.

Some extreme cases of child marriage in the U.S. are:

  • In 2010 in Idaho, a 65-year-old man married a 17-year-old girl
  • In Alabama, a 74-year-old man married a 14-year-old girl
  • In Tennessee, three 10-year-old girls married men ages 24, 25, and 31, respectively.
  • The youngest boy to marry was an 11-year-old who married a 27-year-old woman in Tennessee in 2006

U.S. States that Allow Child Marriage

Technically, child marriage is not legal in any U.S. state, since the minimum marriage age in most states is 18, with the aforementioned exceptions having older ages Underaged marriage in the United States is not permitted unless there are exceptional circumstances. These circumstances include the 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.

Four states have banned underage marriages without exception: Minnesota, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. As of July 1, 2019, 12 states have no minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account, such as requiring parental consent and a judge's approval. These states are California, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

States That Allow Child Marriage 2022

State Child Marriage Legality 2022 Pop.
AlabamaBanned 4,949,697
AlaskaBanned720,763
ArizonaBanned7,640,796
ArkansasBanned3,042,017
CaliforniaNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account39,664,128
ColoradoBanned5,961,083
ConnecticutBanned3,546,588
DelawareBanned without exception998,619
FloridaBanned22,177,997
GeorgiaBanned10,936,299
HawaiiBanned1,401,709
IdahoNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account1,896,652
IllinoisBanned12,518,071
IndianaBanned6,842,385
IowaBanned3,174,426
KansasBanned2,919,179
KentuckyBanned4,487,233
LouisianaBanned4,616,106
MaineNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account1,359,677
MarylandBanned6,075,314
MassachusettsNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account6,922,107
MichiganNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account9,995,212
MinnesotaBanned without exception5,739,781
MississippiNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account2,961,536
MissouriBanned6,184,843
MontanaBanned1,093,117
NebraskaBanned1,960,790
NevadaBanned3,238,601
New HampshireBanned1,378,449
New JerseyBanned without exception8,870,685
New MexicoNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account2,109,093
New YorkBanned19,223,191
North CarolinaBanned10,807,491
North DakotaBanned774,008
OhioBanned11,727,377
OklahomaNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account4,007,179
OregonBanned4,325,290
PennsylvaniaBanned without exception12,805,190
Rhode IslandNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account1,062,583
South CarolinaBanned5,342,388
South DakotaBanned902,542
TennesseeBanned7,001,803
TexasBanned30,097,526
UtahBanned3,363,182
VermontBanned622,882
VirginiaBanned8,638,218
WashingtonNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account7,887,965
West VirginiaNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account1,755,715
WisconsinBanned5,867,518
WyomingNo minimum age when all exemptions are taken into account582,233

States That Allow Child Marriage 2022