Teenagers will find it difficult to get married without parental consent. The law treats marriage as a contract, and in order to enter into a legally binding marriage contract, a person must have reached the "age of majority" in his or her state. Before this age, the law considers a person too immature to be able to keep his or her promises and therefore must seek parental consent in order to be married.
Most states require both partners to be 18 years old in order to get married without parental consent. Two states, however, require a different age of majority: Nebraska requires both partners be 19, and Mississippi requires both partners be 21.
Generally, a parent must give their consent before a court will grant a minor permission to marry. The law gives parents and legal guardians the ultimate responsibility to protect and raise a child until the age of majority. Therefore, if parents do not wish the child to marry before reaching the age of majority, a court cannot allow the minor to marry.
Most states generally prohibit marriage of partners under the age of 16, with or without parental consent. However, some states give judges the power to allow a marriage between partners under the age of 16 if the woman is pregnant or has already given birth to a child.
It is important to distinguish the age of majority for purposes of signing a marriage contract from the age of consent needed to engage in sexual relations. Generally, the age of consent for sexual relations is lower—around 16 or 17 in most states. Engaging in sexual relations does not have the same legal implications as entering into a valid marriage, therefore the age requirement for sexual relations is more relaxed than the age of majority required to marry.
If you encounter legal issues concerning the ability to marry, you should consider consulting with a family law attorney. An attorney can help you understand your situation and avoid possible pitfalls. For example, an attorney can counsel you on related issues such as prenuptial agreements, the abortion rights of minors, and statutory rape laws.