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Marriage Law

Updated on March 31, 2012

The law regulating marriage is not uniform throughout the USA. The question is left to the law-making bodies of each individual state. The marriageable age varies widely. With parental consent, the age for males ranges from 14 to 21 and for females from 12 up to 18. Without the consent of parents, the age for males ranges from 14 up to 21 , but in most states the latter age is required. Without consent of parents the age for females ranges from 12 to 21, but in the majority of states 18 is the age required. In some states a child can be disinherited by law for marrying below the legal age without parental consent. A marriage license of some kind is required in every state of the union, usually obtainable from the county clerk's office.

Throughout the USA marriage is now on the civil contract basis, but religious ceremonies are authorized in all states, provided a marriage license has been obtained. In many states there is no delay in issuing the license or in marrying as soon as the necessary papers have been secured. In New York state a marriage certificate must be filed within seven days, and all under 21 who wish to marry must present a birth certificate or other proof of age. In a considerable number of states a delay of five days is required before a marriage license is issued.

In some parts of the South marriage between whites and Negroes has been unlawful, and in some Southern states there was a similar prohibition of marriage between whites and Indians. However, in a test case in Virginia in 1967, the court held that such prohibition was a denial of equal protection of the laws and a deprivation of liberty without due process of law, violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The decision invalidated laws in several other states prohibiting racial inter-marriage.

Many states also require proof that both the man and the woman are free from venereal infection. Common law marriages of a year's duration or more without either license or ceremony are now validated by the courts in most states upon proper proof and particularly where children or property are involved. In most US states weddings can be performed at any time and place that suits the contracting couple.


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