Family Law

Do I Need Parental Consent to Get Married?

By Amy Castillo, J.D., University of Minnesota School of Law
Learn more about whether minors can marry.

Do I Need Parental Consent to Get Married?

First off, if you want to get married and you’re worried about parental consent, you’re probably underage. Marrying before you’re old enough to do it without input from your parents is something you should think over very carefully, because it can have a detrimental impact on your social life, education, health, and finances. According to the National Institute of Health, people who marry at a very young age experience very negative consequences, including the following:

  • Women who marry in their teens are two-thirds more likely to divorce within 15 years of their marriage.
  • Women who marry before they turn 19 are 50% more likely to drop out of high school and four times less likely to graduate from college.
  • Teenagers who marry have minimal education, earn less when they work, endure higher unemployment rates, experience poor health, and are far more likely to commit a crime.
  • Teenagers who marry and have children generally live in poverty—their children are born with low birth weights, have serious problems in school, and commit crimes at a higher rate than other children.

That said, if you’ve weighed the pros and cons, and you still want to proceed, you may be able to do so, depending on where you live.

How Old Is Old Enough?

In the vast majority of American states, the minimum age to marry without parental consent is 18. This means that in most states, if you want to marry, and you or your partner are under the age of 18, you’ll have to obtain parental consent or possibly a judicial bypass (meaning, the judge can give consent instead of your parents).

If you want to find out what the minimum age of consent is in your state, check out this page from Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute. You’ll notice there are a variety of different age ranges and different legal requirements for each state.

For example, in North Dakota, the minimum age to marry without parental consent is 18, but the minimum age to marry with parental consent is 16. By contrast, Nebraska is a stricter state and is one of the small handful of states that don’t allow marriage at 18. The minimum age to marry in Nebraska without parental consent is 19, while the minimum age to marry with parental consent is 17.

Finally, as you read through the table, you’ll see that some states have marriage laws that differentiate between males and females. For example, in Delaware, the standard age to marry without parental consent is 18. But if spouses have parental consent, they can marry so long as the males are 18 and females are at least 16. Further, if people who are younger than these thresholds need to get married because one of them is pregnant or their child has already been born, they can get a marriage license even if they’re younger than 18 and 16, respectively.

Don’t Jump the Gun

If you're underage and want to get married, it’s important that you don’t lie or break applicable laws in order to obtain a marriage license. If you do, there can be many unpleasant consequences. For example, if you’re too young and you marry without judicial approval and parental consent, your parents can come back to court and ask a judge to annul your marriage. The legal effect of annulment is that the marriage never happened. This can be very painful to you emotionally, but it can also have serious ramifications if you and your partner signed contracts together or if one of you became pregnant.

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