If you think that child marriages only happen in far-off lands, think again. They continue to happen in the United States as well.
Under the current law, children in the state of Michigan can marry at any age, so long as they have the approval of at least one parent and a judge. Between the 16 years of age and 17 years of age, minors only need the consent of one parent. Otherwise, residents have to wait until they are 18 years of age to marry on their own.
Most people aren't aware of how common child marriages actually are in Michigan because there's a law dating from 1897 that seals marriage records involving minors. The laws allowing child marriages and sealing the records were designed to help in situations where a young girl became pregnant out of wedlock back when legitimacy was a more important legal issue for children.
A recent investigation into child marriages in the state was able to use the Freedom of Information Act to uncover more details about the practice. In 2000, a total of 537 children who were not yet old enough to work or drive went to the altar.
The most recent records, from 2014, indicated that 116 underage marriages took place. In many cases, the marriages involve a much-younger bride marrying a much-older groom. One marriage involved a child bride whose groom was 33 years her senior.
It's important to understand that Michigan isn't the only state that permits child marriages with parental consent. New Jersey and Delaware are the only states to formally ban the practice. Advocacy groups are seeking to change that by bringing child marriages within the United States into the public's awareness.
Young people can be easily pressured into commitments that are, ultimately, unhealthy for them. In many cases, people who marry too young end up losing numerous opportunities to explore life. They may also end up economically dependent on their spouses, which can further limit their choices. If you married too young and ended up in a troubled marriage, a family law attorney can help you understand your options and your rights.