Child Marriage

by | Oct 23, 2017

Here Comes the Bride

You know the story: your strong and sophisticated 16-year-old daughter swims to the surface where she first lays eyes on the young Prince Eric and instantly falls deeply in love with him. Okay, maybe that’s just Ariel in The Little Mermaid.

What if your daughter is channeling her inner Ariel and madly desires to marry her prince at the age of 16 or 17? You think this guy is perfect for your daughter, so you agree to the marriage.

Before your daughter says yes to the dress, you should be aware of recent legislation in Texas that makes getting married more difficult for minors, essentially banning child marriage.

Can You Consent?

The simple answer: No. Parents can no longer consent to the marriage of their minor child in the state of Texas. Prior to September 1, 2017, there were a few exceptions that allowed minors to marry their significant other:

  • 16- and 17- year olds could obtain a marriage with parental consent; or
  • Alternatively, a minor whose parents did not give consent could seek an order granting permission to marry by filing a petition in district court.

However, this statute has been amended to exclude parental consent and disallow a court order granting permission to marry.

See Tex. Fam. Code §2.003

How Can a Minor Get Married?

As of September 1, 2017, 16- and 17- year olds can marry their significant other only if they are emancipated from their parents. A child is emancipated when a court grants an order removing the disabilities of the minor. The child must be at least 16 years of age before she can be emancipated. Check out our previous Emancipated Minor Blog for more information about how to be emancipated.

See Tex. Fam. Code §2.003; Tex. Fam. Code §31.001

Once the minor has been emancipated, in order to obtain a marriage license, she should go to the county clerk’s office with the required fee amount and proper documents. The applicant should bring proof of age and identification and the court order showing that her disabilities of minority have been removed. The county clerk will issue the marriage license thereafter.

See Tex. Fam. Code §2.009; SB 1705

A child under the age of 16 cannot obtain a marriage license under any circumstances.

See Tex. Fam. Code §2.101; SB 1705

Is There a Waiting Period?

As with all marriage license applications in Texas, a marriage ceremony may not take place during the 72-hour period immediately following the issuance of the marriage license.

See Tex. Fam. Code § 2.204(a)

The following exceptions apply to the 72-hour waiting period for an applicant that:

  • Is a member of the United States Armed Forces and is on active duty;
  • Performs work for the Unites States Department of Defense as a department employee or under a contract with the department;
  • Obtains a written waiver from a judge; or
  • Completes a premarital education course and provides to the county clerk a premarital education course completion certificate indicating completion of the premarital education course not more than one year before the date the marriage license application is filed with the clerk.

See Tex. Fam. Code §2.204(b)

Are Prior Marriages Still Valid?

If your minor daughter was legally married before September 1, 2017, then her marriage is still valid. The amendment to the Act applies only to a marriage entered into on or after September 1, 2017.

See Tex. Fam. Code §6.205; SB 1705

If your minor daughter tries to marry her prince on or after September 1, 2017, without obtaining an order removing her disabilities of minority, then the marriage is void. For any marriages on or after September 1, 2017, the marriage is void if either party is younger than 18 years of age, unless the court order removing the disabilities of minority has been obtained in Texas or in another state.

See Tex. Fam. Code §6.205; SB 1705

Goodbye Fairy Tale Ending

The best option for your daughter would probably be to wait until she is 18. There are extenuating circumstances that may necessitate a minor marriage, such as pregnancy, military service, or she really really loves him. If your daughter is dead set on marrying her prince and enjoying her happily ever after, her only option in Texas is to present her case to a judge. At least this takes the burden off of you being forced to tell your daughter, “No.”

–Authored by Elizabeth A. Brooks, J.D.,

 

Matthew Harris Law, PLLC- Family Law Division

1001 Main Street, Suite 200, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3309

Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479

[email protected]