The news is littered with references to child marriages taking place around the world; however, we do not think of those things happening in our backyards in Pennsylvania. However, as recently as early this month, the Virginia child marriage law was amended bringing an end to child marriage in that state. Before this week, girls as young as thirteen could marry in Virginia with parental permission if they were pregnant. After this law was passed, all parties seeking to marry in the state of Virginia must be eighteen. Sixteen year olds can marry if they are emancipated. Legislators claim this change is aimed at curbing forced marriage, human trafficking and statutory rape disguised as marriage.
Often the family law industry finds itself at offs with the Catholic Church, which has historically required a several step process and steep fees to have the dissolution of a marriage spiritually recognized by an annulment. Under Catholic doctrine, a marriage will not be formally recognized by the church as ended unless the parties seek an annulment. This would prevent either husband or wife from remarrying in the Church among other things and placed a large barrier in the way of the nearly 28,000 American couples who sought divorce last year. Though the Catholic Church still does not formally recognize divorce without a formal Catholic annulment, Pope Francis announced this week that he hopes to simplify and streamline the process allowing the more than 28% of Catholics whose marriages end in divorce to breathe a bit easier and putting a bit less strain on their pocketbooks as well.