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Which states do not have a minimum age for marriage?

In the United States, marriage laws are set by each individual state. Most states do have minimum age requirements for marriage, but exceptions in the law allow minors to marry in some circumstances. There are currently 13 states that have no absolute minimum marriage age if certain conditions are met.

What is the minimum legal age for marriage in most states?

Currently, most states set the minimum marriage age at 18. Two states have set their minimum age even higher, at 19. These states are:

  • Nebraska – 19
  • Mississippi – 21

However, many states allow exceptions to the minimum age, with parental consent or judicial approval. Some states will allow minors as young as 12 years old to marry with court approval.

Which states have no absolute minimum marriage age?

There are 13 states with no statutory minimum age for marriage, as long as certain conditions are met:

  • California
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • New Mexico
  • Oklahoma
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Maryland
  • Utah
  • Wyoming

These states have no bottom limit on marriage age set in law. Minors of any age could potentially marry in these states if they meet the correct judicial or parental consent requirements.

What are the rules in states with no minimum marriage age?

In the 13 states with no statutory minimum marriage age, the rules allowing minors to marry typically include:

  • Parental consent
  • Court approval
  • Pregnancy or birth of a child
  • Emancipation of the minor

Some key details on the laws in these states:

  • In California, the minor can marry with parental consent and court approval.
  • In Massachusetts, the court must give approval and find the marriage to be in the minor’s “best interest.”
  • Michigan requires parental consent and court approval if the minor is under 16 years old.
  • Mississippi requires consent from the parent or guardian.
  • New Mexico has no minimum age but requires parental or court consent.
  • Oklahoma requires court approval or parental consent for minors under 16.
  • In Washington, minors can marry with parental consent and court approval.

Overall the rules are similar involving parental or court oversight, but each state differs in the exact requirements and processes around approval for a minor to marry.

How common are child marriages in the United States?

According to data from Unchained At Last, an advocacy group opposed to child marriage, there were over 200,000 child marriages in the United States between 2000 and 2018. The majority were between a minor girl and an adult man.

Here is a breakdown of child marriage statistics in the US:

  • At least 207,468 minors were married in the United States between 2000 and 2018.
  • 86% of these marriages involved a minor girl marrying an adult man.
  • The youngest children to marry were three 10 year old girls in Tennessee in 2001.
  • Over 9 out of 10 of the minors who married were girls.
  • Most minors married were aged 17 years old. However, over 31,000 involved children under 16 years old.

Advocacy groups believe the actual rates of child marriage in the US are even higher, as some states did not provide complete data.

Which states had the most child marriages from 2000-2018?

According to data compiled by Unchained At Last, these 10 states had the highest rates of child marriage during the 18 year period from 2000 to 2018:

State Child Marriages 2000-2018
Texas 41,000
Florida 16,400
Oklahoma 10,300
Missouri 8,400
Tennessee 7,200
North Carolina 6,800
Idaho 6,500
Kentucky 6,300
Mississippi 6,100
Alabama 5,900

The state of Texas alone accounted for nearly 20% of all child marriages across the country in the time period. However, many states with no minimum marriage age, like California and Michigan, also saw thousands of minors married.

Are there efforts to restrict child marriage?

There are ongoing efforts to limit or ban the practice of child marriage in America. Some initiatives include:

  • Federal bill – Congress is considering a bipartisan bill to set 18 as the minimum marriage age across the country. Currently, marriage age requirements are left to each state.
  • State law changes – Virginia and Florida have passed laws in recent years limiting marriage to legal adults age 18 or over, though exceptions remain.
  • Court challenges – Advocacy groups have assisted minors in challenging state laws that would allow them to marry before age 18.
  • State legislation – Pending bills in states like Massachusetts would raise the marriage age to 18 without exceptions.

However, efforts to restrict underage marriage face opposition from some groups. Critics argue that blanket bans ignore nuances around young love, teen pregnancy, and emancipated minors. Debate continues around balancing protection of minors with allowing exceptions in special cases.


The United States has seen over 200,000 child marriages in just the past two decades. Loophole-ridden state marriage laws allow minors of any age to marry in some circumstances. Thirteen states currently have no minimum marriage age statute. Reforms are aimed at setting 18 as the legal marriage age across the country, but progress has been limited. Understanding the patchwork of inconsistent state laws is key to the ongoing efforts to restrict child marriage.