The rules that set how old you have to be to get married with or without your parents’ consent are set by each individual state, not by the federal government. Those rules can vary quite a lot. In order to marry without parental consent, most states have ruled that a person needs to be at least 18 years of age. Only two states require a higher age of consent to marry: 19 for Nevada, and 21 for Mississippi. In California, anyone under the age of 18 who wishes to get married has to meet specific requirements set by law. Failure to meet these requirements before obtaining a marriage license will lead not only to the marriage being invalidated, but also possible fraud charges, fines and/or incarceration.

It is important to understand that, while most states have set the minimum age to marry with parental consent to 16, California is one of the few states that allow minors to get married at any age, as long as they obtain parental consent. However, this does not mean that young children will be allowed to get married, since a judge will also need to grant approval and may not allow a minor he/she deems too immature to marry. While most couples tend to wait until both partners reach the age of 18 to marry, this age exception allows pregnant minor couples to marry before the child is born, without having to wait for the age of majority.

If a person under the age of 18 wishes to marry in California, the law allows the marriage after the minor obtains all of these documents:

1. A notarized statement from at least one parent who has legal custody, or a legal guardian that gives consent to marry to the minor. Parental consent may be waived if the parent is deceased, living out of the country, or has abandoned the family;

2. An order from the California Superior Court granting the minor permission to marry;

3. Additionally, the judge may require the couple seeking consent to marry to first attend premarital counseling to learn about the social, economic, and personal responsibilities of marriage.

In order to obtain an order granting judicial permission to marry, all minors seeking marriage before the age of 18 must go through an interview process with Family Court Services. The parent(s) or legal guardian must also attend this interview, the goal of which is to assess the readiness of the minors to enter married life together. After the interview, Family Court Services will forward a recommendation to the judge for review, who will then determine if permission to marry should be granted or denied.

Navigating the laws of marriage consent can be quite complicated in California. A mediator experienced in family law matters will be able to provide guidance, as well as help completing the necessary petition forms required by the court to obtain permission to marry.