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 Margulis.