Child Marriage in Arizona

child marriage in arizonaBefore 2018, Arizona had no minimum age for marriage.  House Bill 2006, passed this year, changes that.  This bill prohibits marriage for children younger than the age of 16 in Arizona.  It still allows children ages 16 and 17 to marry someone no more than three years older than them with a parent’s consent or if they are legally emancipated from their parents.

Before HB 2006, ARS 25-102 allowed people under the age of 18 to get married as long as they had consent of a parent or legal guardian.  Anyone under the age of 16 was also required to get the approval of any superior court judge in the state.  Some cases required premarital counseling.

Child marriage is an issue that has recently resurfaced across the United States, with many like Arizona debating how they should address the issue.  The original HB 2006 would have banned child marriage entirely, but an amendment was added to state that only those over the age of 16 could marry.

What are the Statistics on Child Marriage in Arizona?

The AZ Central reported that every year, about 100 children get marriage licenses in Maricopa County.  According to same report, the vast majority are girls marrying older men.  The statistics aren’t as clear in rural Arizona.  In Mohave County, which includes the polygamous group in Colorado City, there are no statistics on child marriages.

State Representative Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale proposed the original bill which would have made it illegal for children under the age of 18 to get married.  She said it was unthinkable to have age limits on things like lottery tickets and cigarettes, but not on getting married.  At the committee hearing for the bill, the Tahirih Justice Center testified. The group advocates for protecting women from violence and other abuses.  The Center testified that 525 marriage licenses were issued to minors in the past five years in Maricopa County.  In the United States, more than 200,000 children under the age of 18 were married from 2000 to 2015.  Other states like Kentucky and Florida have recently passed laws similar to Arizona.

The argument for age restriction laws for marriage cite that child marriages raises questions about developmental consequences including emotional and physical in children.  It also can create a power dynamic that may lead to violence, especially in situations where a young child is married to a much older person.

Representative David Stringer of Prescott voted against the bill.  In committee. Representative Stringer commented about why the state should be involved in family decisions.  Representative Ugenti-Rita argued back that the state already gets involved in a number of different situations, like driving and voting.

What are the Child Marriage Laws in Other States?

Currently, every state in the United States allows people under the age of 18 to marry with some sort of parental or judicial approval.  25 states do not have a legal minimum age.  Determining how many marriage licenses are issued in the United States can vary.  While the 200,000 number is a rough estimate, many states like Arizona do not track statewide numbers of marriages licenses issued, the counties are in charge of tracking and issuing marriage licenses.

According to PBS “Frontline” and Unchained At Last, a non-profit organization aimed at banning child marriage, 4,767 minors were married in Maricopa County between 2000 and 2015.

The U.S. Department of State in 2016 issued guidance that stated that marriage in which one or both parties were under the age of 18 was a human rights abuse.  It also stated that child marriage leads to economic hardship and an under-investment in adolescent girls.

Several states like New York, Connecticut and Texas have raised their minimum marriage laws.  Texas now prohibits marriage for anyone under 18 unless they are legally emancipated.

If the marriage isn’t working out, find out about getting an annulment in Arizona.