By Robert L. Mues   |   January 12th, 2019

Ohio Bans Underage Marrriages Putting An End To Child Marriage

underage marriage child marriage teen marriagesOhio has banned underage marriage between underage boys and girls. In addition, for the first time the law treats both genders the same. Previously, the law in Ohio had permitted boys at age 18 but 16 for girls to marry.

On January 7, 2019, Gov. John Kasich signed into law a measure that protects Ohio children against underage marriage. This new law was initiated in part as a result of a Dayton Daily News investigation that found 4,443 girls age 17 or younger were married in Ohio between 2000 and 2015, including 59 who were 15 and younger. Ohio records showed that three girls age 14 were married, including one pregnant girl who married a 48-year-old man! Prior to this law change, pregnant girls under age16 could marry if they had parental consent and juvenile court approval.

80% Of Teen Marriages End In Divorce

On May 12, 2018, we published “Teen Marriages and the Push for Reform in Ohio” on the Ohio Family Law Blog. Click here to read it and more about teen marriages. Did you know that about 80% of these teen marriages end in divorce?

The new Ohio law boosts the minimum marriage age to 18 for both parties but allows for 17-year-olds to marry if they have juvenile court consent, go through a 14-day waiting period and the age differential between the two isn’t more than four years.

Certain Exceptions For Underage Marriage

Montgomery County Juvenile Court Judge Anthony Capizzi views this new law very positively. “The previous law led to greater risk of human trafficking, emotional trauma, and increased risk of abuse of young women. The new law codifies young men and woman as equals and sets the legal age of marriage at 18. It further does allow for certain exceptions but only for youth who are at least 17 with court oversight,” Capizzi said. “This law will go a long way to better protecting young women from the emotional and physical abuses that were allowed to occur under the old law.”

Ohio now joins six other states that set 17 as the minimum age for marriage under certain conditions, according to the Tahirih Justice Center, a non-profit focused on ending child marriage. Two states — Delaware and New Jersey — require that both parties be at least 18.

Advocates for the stricter law say under age marriage sets up girls for failure and exploitation. But it’s not just girls who are marrying before age 18: 301 boys age 17 or younger were married during the time frame studied by the newspaper, including 25 to women who were age 21 or older.

Immigration Loophole

A new Senate report dealing with immigration and underage child marriage was released yesterday. Apparently, the present U.S. Immigration system encourages child marriages. The immigration “loophole” actually opens the door for primarily girls to be exploited. In an 11 year period over 8,686 spouses or fiancées involved minors – some as young as 13. The data in this report certainly raises concerns about how the immigration system is enabling “forced marriages.”

These child marriages come about when young girls are forced by their family to marry someone to give the foreigner access to the United States.
Victims of forced marriages state that the goal of obtaining a U.S. passport in conjunction with State laws allowing young children to marry compound the problem.  Understand that we are talking about legal immigration here, not illegal immigration. Much reform needs to occur to both our immigration system and state marriage laws.  It is nice to see that Ohio has finally come out of the dark ages and increased the age to marry!

National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

Yesterday was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, so the timing of the release of this extensive Senate report could not have been better. Many reactions to these Senate findings are hitting the media and internet. Understandably, most readers are both shocked and horrified with the data presented.  Click here to access the underage marriage report, “How the U.S. Immigration System Encourages Child Marriages”.

More Legal Reforms For Child Marriage Needed

Hopefully, the public and our Congressmen will push for more legal reforms to protect our children from exploitation or entering into marriages statistically destined to fail. We will keep you posted on developments in protecting our children from underage marriage.

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.

LEGAL ALERT: Ohio Raises the Minimum Age to Marry to 18 in Most Cases

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