Underage Marriage in the United States
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Underage Marriage in the United States

Posted on in Family Law
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Illinois marriage laws, Illinois family law attorney, Illinois divorce lawyer, When thinking about child marriage laws, many people’s first thought is of the child brides in third world countries in Africa or Asia. However, in a recent study, it seems that the child marriage laws in the United States and Canada have a lot more in common with Saudi Arabia, Niger, and Bolivia, than with Western Europe. This is because in the vast majority of countries around the world, minors under the age of 18 are not legally permitted to marry, or if they are, it is only with court approval and/or pregnancy. Many are currently pushing to increase the minimum age to marry regardless of parental consent and/or religious law all around the world, including the United States and Canada.

The United States

The United States, since the 1990s, has experienced a substantial increase in teen marriage due to the expansive proliferation of abstinence-only sex education. In many states in the U.S., many teenagers are able to wed at the age of 14 or 15. Though teen marriages at these ages are rare, the fact that most states set the minimum age at 16 still has an influential impact on teenagers, especially girls, who may be forced into marriage due to pressures exerted by the family and cultural conservatism within the community. In many states, the younger age limit is taken advantage of to push minors, who may be the victims of statutory rape, into a marriage to legitimize the misconduct that occurred.

Push By International Community To Set Minimum Age of 18

A big push in the international community aims to create a minimum, objective standard of 18 years of age, which would be acknowledged by all countries around the world. The Convention on the Rights of Children, and the vast majority of countries, have delineated the age of 18 as being the widely-accepted age when a child becomes an adult. Each country has its own cultural and religious influences which can push minors into marriage so as to avoid social stigma in the community. This has the overall effect of forcing a child into a binding situation where they may not be physically, emotionally, or mentally ready for the obligations and demands that come from being married. By setting a minimum age of 18, it provides that even if social, cultural, and religious influences are being exerted, the child at least has the necessary time until the widely-accepted standard of mature age before entering into the marriage.

Illinois law: Underaged Marriage

Under Illinois law, the minimum age for consent is 16 years old, but requires that the teenager either has consent from both of his/her parents or judicial approval. Teenagers must have consent from both parents, or the consenting parent must make diligent efforts to locate the other parent. If the other parent cannot be located, then the consenting parent must provide his or her consent and a signed affidavit stating that the other parent cannot be located and enumerating the efforts made to locate that parent.

Judicial Approval of Underaged Marriages

For judicial approval of underage marriages, if the parents or guardian cannot be notified or located, or if the teenager is 17 years old and his or her parents do not give consent to the marriage, then the court may step in grant judicial approval. The court will only provide approval if the court finds that the teenager is able to assume the obligations and duties of marriage and that the marriage will be in the teenager’s best interest. It is stated explicitly that pregnancy is not a compelling enough reason to establish best interest of the party.

Experienced Family Law Attorneys in DuPage County

Marriage, regardless of age, has serious consequences both positive and negative. It is important to speak with the experienced family law attorneys at Mevorah & Giglio Law Offices to learn more about the legal issues surrounding marriage and, on extension, legal ramifications of divorce. Contact our experienced DuPage County family law attorneys today for a free and confidential consultation.

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