How Young Is Too Young To Get Married?

By Rayna Brachmann, Esq.

Currently in Nevada, people who are under the age of 16 can get married with the consent of one parent or guardian and authorization of the Court.  The statute covering minor marriages provides little guidance for the Court when and under what circumstances to approve a request for a minor marriage.  The law instructs the Court to consider whether the marriage will serve the best interests of the minor, and whether a parent or guardian has consented to the marriage.  The statute states that pregnancy alone does not establish that the minor’s best interests will be served by allowing the marriage, nor may pregnancy be required by the Court in order to authorize the marriage.

The Nevada Legislature is in session and a bill has been introduced which would ban all marriages by minors in the State of Nevada.  The Legislator who introduced the bill has concerns that in Nevada, there is no minimum age for marriage.  Under current law, so long as one parent consents and the Court authorizes the marriage, in theory a child of any age can be married in Nevada.  Her bill would change that.  A link to an article about the bill is here.

Many years ago when I was a Law Clerk, the process for a minor seeking to be married involved completing an application describing generally what the circumstances were, as well as an interview with the Law Clerk when then presented the details to the Judge who decided whether to grant the request or not.  Sometimes people were so certain as to the outcome that they would come to Court dressed in their wedding clothes, only to leave with their hopes dashed when the Court declined to grant their request.  The Court at the time I worked there tended to be fairly restrictive with granting the approvals for a minor marriage, and the request needed to be based on very good reasons.  As the statute makes clear, pregnancy alone, was not a sufficient reason to grant the marriage.  I don’t recall any situations where there was a significantly older man with a young vulnerable girl, but had any such situation been presented, it is almost certain that the Judge I clerked for would not have granted approval.  Nor do I believe any other Judge at the time would have done so either.  But, if the article linked above is correct, apparently some Judge somewhere in the State gave permission for an 11 year old to be married.  Those must have been truly extraordinary circumstances.

Kimberly Surratt served for eight years on the executive council and has been the vice chair and then chair of the State Bar of Nevada Family Law Section. In addition, she is the President-Elect of the Nevada Justice Association and the chair of the domestic lobbying committee. She has lobbied with the Nevada Justice Association since 2004.

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