Laws in the United States, for most states, set 18 as the minimum age for
an individual to be able to get married. However, each state has exceptions
that would allow individuals younger than 18 years of age to marry if
they meet the requirements set by that state’s laws. In fact, according
to the Washington Post article “Why Can 12-Year-Olds Still Get Married
in the United States”, published on February 10, 2017, 27 states
do not specify an age below which an individual can marry.
Unchained At Last, a nonprofit organization working specifically in the
area of child marriage research and assistance, reported data showing
that from 2000 to 2010 in 38 states, 167,000 individuals under the age
of 18, some as young as 12 years old, were married. As with any controversial
issue, opinions are split between what should be the legal age to get
married, should there be exceptions and just how involved should the law
be in someone’s decision to get married.
Supporters of stricter laws regarding underage marriage use extensive research
on the harm done to individuals who marry at a young (minor age) to lobby
against laws which allow it. According to the Washington Post article
referred to above, studies have shown that early marriages have negative
effects on health, education and it increases the likelihood of domestic
violence. They go as far as stating that a marriage before 18 should be
considered as human rights abuse. However, some lawmakers have refused
to pass legislation that prohibits marriage under the age of 18 without
exceptions, arguing that such measures would unlawfully stifle religious
freedom or stop someone from uniting a family when teen pregnancy occurs.
Furthermore, people who wish to get married before the age of 18 argue
that the law should not be able to dictate when they are mentally and
emotionally ready for love and marriage, as long as they meet the requirements
set out in the exceptions under the law.
Colorado law states that 18 is the legal age to get married, but it does
provide exceptions for the parties that are younger than 18. Under Colorado
Revised Statute 14-2-106, a party who is 16 or 17 years of age may get
married if he or she has consent from both parents (or from a parent having
legal custody) or if he or she obtains judicial approval. If the party
is under the age 16, he or she may get married only if they obtain both:
parental consent and judicial approval. Judicial approval is obtainable
only if the Court finds that the underage party is capable of assuming
the responsibility of marriage and the marriage would serve his or her
best interest. Keep in mind that under Colorado law, pregnancy alone does
not establish that the best interest would be served by allowing the individual
to get married.
If you need assistance with a family law issue, please
contact the domestic team at Feldmann Nagel, LLC.