Legal Basics of Minor Child’s Marriage
Section 25-102 of Arizona’s of the Domestic Relations Law contains the rules for a minor who wishes to marry. If an Arizona citizen is under 18, and wants to get married, they must meet the statutory requirements. In some cases, the court must also give consent, and the statute gives the court a great deal of discretion in making findings and imposing further conditions to the marriage. The underlying rationale is one of defensive young people from making impulsive decisions that could ruin their futures.
Two Levels of Consent: between 16 and 18
Paragraph A establishes a standard: if the minor is between 16 and 18 years, they need the consent of:
- Either Parent, if the Parents live together—the consent of both is unnecessary; or
- The custodial ( legal decision making) Parent if the Parents are separated; or
- The guardian (when there are no Parents).
Under this narrow set of circumstances, court participation is not required, but the marriage license will not be issued without Parental consent (25-122). Since minors in their late teens are presumed to be more mature, the law deems that parental consent is a sufficient protection. No extra requirements are needed.
Consent for Minors Under 15
When a person 15 or younger seeks to be married, paragraph B of 25-102 establishes a strict set of guidelines. In addition to parent/guardian consent, a Superior Court judge must also consent to the marriage. The judge has broad discretion and power to make findings, and must impose:
- Mandatory premarital counseling for both future spouses;
- A finding that the minor is voluntarily entering into the marriage
- That the marriage is in the best interests of the minor ‘under the circumstances’
The phrase ‘under the circumstances’ is the heart of this provision. The judge is going to look at all the facts: the minor’s character; relationships within and outside the family; any circumstances that underlay the request to get married. Marriage is a major life decision, and many teenagers have a hard time making the most trivial decisions, so a court is going to take this situation very, very seriously. The minor and their future partner ought to realize the judge will put their lives under a microscope. It may cause aggravation, but is meant to guide them toward making a sound decision.
And there’s more to the judge’s power. The judge has the right, but is not required, to direct that the minor continue schooling after the marriage. They may impose further conditions deemed ‘reasonable under the circumstances”. All the parties should be aware that getting a Superior Judge’s consent may have unexpected consequences. Always take legal proceedings seriously, and make an effort to know the laws involved.
Policies behind the Law
Marriage is a fundamental decision, and minors need guidance when making that decision. People between 16 and 18 require less supervision—a parent or guardian’s permission is sufficient. When a younger person wants to marry, a Superior Court judge’s consent is also needed, and the judge may impose additional safeguards as a condition to their agreement.