Marriage of Underage Children

In most states, a person must be 18 in order to marry; however, in many states a minor 15 years or older may get married with legal permission from a parent or guardian. You have to be 16 to get married with parental consent in the State of New York. If you are under 16, you need a court order giving you permission to marry.

Parental Consent

Parental consent is obtained when at least one parent or legal guardian of the underage person legally consents to the marriage. The way this is accomplished differs among the states. Some states require a court to issue permission based upon the parental consent. Others allow the parents to consent on paper. In some states the permission of a judge may be necessary for the underage marriage to take place.

Void Underage Marriages

Until remedial legislation was passed in Arkansas in 1964, five states held underage marriages to be absolutely void. While states no longer consider the marriage to be absolutely void, the states do consider underage marriage to be voidable. In the case of a marriage that is voidable because one or both of the parties were under the age of consent, the marriage may become a valid marriage if the parties are living together when the age of consent is attained.

International Agreements to Promote Prevention of Child Marriage

Most countries have subscribed to international agreements and conventions that promote the prevention of child marriage, yet their implementation is lagging. Many developing countries do not enforce laws that set the minimum age of marriage at 18.