The laws regulating marriage are quite uniform. The right to marry is considered very personal, and once the “age of majority,” or when one can marry without the permission of a parent or guardian, is reached, it is the couple’s sole decision whether or not to marry. However, below this age, parental consent is required (though states do not require the consent of a parent or guardian who is not present in the country or who has abandoned his or her child). The age of majority is now universally eighteen, except in Mississippi, where the parties need to be twenty-one.
While only three states, California, Kansas, and Massachusetts, have no statutory minimum age under which marriage licenses will not be issued, many states with a minimum age requirement do permit marriages between minors under that age. Virtually all states allowing the marrying of minors require court approval in addition to parental consent. A growing number of states now require counseling for minors seeking to marry. Provisions for underage marriages exist in order to permit pregnant minor females and/or couples to marry, and prevailing code language still clearly reflects that bias. Ohio has the most explicit rule on this issue. In that state, the juvenile court is authorized to grant official consent to the marriage of underage persons, and the probate court issues the license. According to Ohio statutes, the probate court may delay issuing the license until the court is convinced that the female is pregnant and will carry the child to term or may even delay issuance of the license until the baby is born.