Special Rules for Youth to Marry in Maryland
People get married for lots of reasons. While romantics like to think of love as the primary motivation for tying the knot, there are other incentives for some: money, healthcare, opportunity, parenthood, and sometimes, to escape a bad situation. Regardless of the reason, Maryland legislators this year took a look at the younger subsection of individuals to consider whether or not the legal age to marry should be raised.
State law requires that individuals under the age of 18 must obtain the consent of parents/guardians who make an oath that the person is 16 or 17 years old. However, in the event the minor is unable to obtain parental consent, a licensed physician may certify that the female wishing to marry is pregnant or has already given birth to a child, thereby creating a legal pathway for marriage.
If a 15-year-old wishes to marry, both parental consent and a licensed physician’s certification of pregnancy or previous childbirth are required.
Marriages performed that do not meet these requirements may be voidable. Additionally, individuals under age 15 are prohibited from marriage under any circumstances.
Lawmakers Consider Raising the Age
This year, legislators discussed raising the legal age to marry, with virtually unanimous agreement that 15 is much too young. But women’s advocacy groups, who feared consequences to young people beyond simple marriage restrictions, nixed the move. The concern is that if teens are prevented from legal marriage, it’s not a far leap to limit access to reproductive care and/or abortions for them, as well. Currently, Maryland law requires parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion, but not parental consent.
Statistics for Minor Marriages in Maryland
According to the 2016 Maryland Department of Health records, 85 minors were wed that year:
- In ten situations, two teens married each other;
- 34 couples were comprised of one minor and one person aged 18 or 19;
- 25 cases involved a minor marrying someone in their 20s;
- 6 scenarios occurred with a minor who married someone in their 30s.
Young Mothers Choose Marriage
Roughly 900 minors have babies every year in Maryland. Many of them choose marriage under these circumstances, partly to gain access to health insurance, military benefits, and/or housing aid. Others wish to escape abusive homes, and have no other options since there is no emancipation law in this state.
As it now stands, the age to marry will not be adjusted. Minors will be allowed to wed under the circumstances outlined by law in previous years. If you have concerns about upcoming nuptials, or any other family issues, the knowledgeable legal team at the Law Office of Hasson D. Barnes can help. We have experience with guardianship issues, domestic violence, prenuptial agreements, divorce, and much more. Schedule a free, confidential consultation in our Baltimore office today.