It is estimated that over 150,000 minors were married in the United States from 2000 to 2010. While there are states that require individuals to be 18 years old before marrying, other states allow for children as young as 14 years old to be wed. Even in states that have minimum age limits for marriage, individuals under the imposed age limit may still legally marry under designated exceptions to state marriage laws. Many states, including New Jersey, have recently passed laws banning underage marriage.
Most state marriage laws carve out exceptions to age requirements to allow teens to marry in certain circumstances. In certain states, any teenager can get married with approval from a judge or permission from their parents. Although the exceptions to state laws allow minors to marry, as minors, these individuals are unable to initiate legal action in their own name. The married minor would be precluded from filing for divorce, forcing minors to remain married against their will.
Advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Watch, Unchained at Last, and the Tahirih Justice Center, have lent their support to legislative efforts to ban underage marriage. These organizations are working to eliminate forced and arranged marriages and promote social and legal justice for women and girls. The underage marriage ban has received celebrity support with well-known personalities, such as actor and activist Sean Penn testifying before state legislatures on the negative impact that underage marriages have on minors.
New Jersey’s Underage Marriage Ban Bill
New Jersey legislators have recently passed a new law that bans underage marriages in the state. The bill, signed by Governor Phil Murphy, bans all marriages before the age of 18. Past New Jersey laws allowed minors as young as 16 to marry with the approval of a Superior Court Judge, parent, or guardian. A founding member of Unchained at Last stated that this law is a victory for all girls and women in the state. More than 3,000 minors were married in New Jersey between 1995 and 2015, with 95 percent consisting of 16 and 17-year-olds.
Similar underage marriage ban bills are currently pending in several states, including Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut. The United Nations has announced its own goal to eliminate child marriage by year 2030.
Mendham Family Law Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Represent Individuals and Families in New Jersey
If you or a family member needs legal assistance in a New Jersey family law matter, the dedicated Mendham family law lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. are here to help. We handle a wide variety of family law matters, including those related to divorce, separation, child support, restraining orders, child custody, guardianship, alimony, division of marital property, and visitation. To set up your free consultation today, call us at 908-575-9777 or submit an online inquiry form. With an office in Somerville, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, Morris Plains and throughout the state.