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.
This new law is similar to that which governs marriages in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, you must be eighteen to get married. However, you can get married as young as sixteen if you receive permission from a parent. The Pennsylvania law is similar to the laws of most other states. Although uncommon today, in the past, children would marry as early as their early teens usually out of economic or social necessity.
Even with the lack of Romeo and Juliette type love stories, people might ask what happens if someone under age eighteen gets married without their parents’ permission in Pennsylvania. Obviously, this is weeded out by the fact that you must provide basic information including dates of birth to apply for a marriage license in Pennsylvania. However, if on the off chance you manage to marry a fourteen year old in Pennsylvania, your marriage is void ab initio. This means that your marriage is void from the beginning, and there is no need to proceed through an annulment or divorce proceeding. As far as the state is concerned, it is as if those marriages never happened. However, this becomes complicated if people believe they are married, acquire assets and have children. In such cases, it may be necessary to discuss the impact that a void marriage would have on custody and equitable distribution with an attorney.
If you’d like more information on this topic or others issues related to the validity of marriages, contact our Pittsburgh office today!