Regardless of which state you live in, age restrictions on marriage end at the age of majority (18 in most states), when you legally become an adult. But states have different age requirements for different situations. For instance, Pennsylvania marriage age requirement laws allow men and women as young as 16 to get married with parental consent. A judge may also grant a minor seeking a marriage license if it deems it in best interest of the juvenile.
The following chart summarizes the main provisions of Pennsylvania's marriage age requirement laws and more information follows. See FindLaw's Marriage Law section for related articles.
|Code Section||Tit. 23 §1304(1) to (2)|
|Minimum Legal Age With Parental Consent||Male: 16; Female: 16|
|Minimum Legal Age Without Parental Consent||Male: 18; Female: 18|
|Comments||Minors under 16 may obtain license with parental consent and approval of court if in best interest of applicant.|
The Fundamental Right to Marry
Since 1888, the United States Supreme Court has continually stated that marriage is a fundamental right that cannot be infringed by the government except in extreme circumstances. One of the more famous cases that stands for this principle is Loving vs. Virginia, in which the Supreme Court invalidated a law that prohibited interracial marriage. Even though that case concerned a Virginia law, the ramifications apply throughout the country. The court reasoned that race was not a permissible basis for denying the right to marriage. Similarly, denying the right to marry based on age may be unconstitutionally strict depending on the type of restriction and reasons for the restriction.
Age of Majority
Pennsylvania marriage law allows men and women to marry if they have reached the age of majority. Pennsylvania's age of majority is eighteen. However, there are some other situations which may declare an underage person to be an adult, even if they have not yet reached the age of majority. Generally, those situations include legal emancipation and entering the military. Because the law recognizes emancipated youth and servicemembers as legal adults, they generally have the same rights to marriage as any other adult in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Underage Marriage Laws
Regardless of whether or not a parent gives consent, Pennsylvania marriage law does not allow juveniles younger than sixteen years old to get married. If the juvenile is sixteen or seventeen years old, they may get married with parental consent. As well, the court that grants the marriage license will only approve of the marriage if it believes that the marriage is in the best interest of the child. This is called the best interest of the child standard, and is also used in child custody cases, and juvenile criminal court when making important decisions that affect a child's life.
Underage Marriage and Annulment
If a juvenile gets married without parental consent, that marriage is subject to annulment. Annulment is different from divorce in that annulment declares that the marriage was invalid in the first place.
If you would like to know more about Pennsylvania's marriage laws, there are many family law attorneys throughout the state who may be able to help. If you would like to know about the possibility of invalidating a marriage, a divorce attorney may be able to help you with annulment issues.
Contact a qualified attorney.