Child Marriage in the United States

Child marriage is a serious problem in the United States, affecting thousands of children each year and compromising their health, safety and well-being. When a child under age 18 is forced to marry, they often fall victim to numerous other abuses and face significant hurdles in leaving their marriage or seeking services.

The Tahirih Justice Center is proud to partner with survivors leading the campaign to end child marriage across the U.S., working to change antiquated state laws that make underage marriage legal and fail to protect children from abuse and maltreatment.

In 2016, Tahirih drafted and spearheaded the bipartisan passage of a new law that made Virginia the first state in the country to limit marriage to legal adults (age 18 or older, with a limited exception for court-emancipated minors). Now, we are providing our legal expertise and advocacy to end child marriage in a growing number of states.

Navigate the resources below to learn more about child marriage and the laws that allow it to persist in America today.

If you are facing or fleeing a forced child marriage or know someone who is, click here to get help.

Learn More about the Harms of Child Marriage in the U.S.

Child marriage has devastating, lifelong consequences including greater vulnerability to sexual and domestic violence, increased medical and mental health problems, higher drop-out rates, greater risk of poverty and up to 80% divorce rates. Read this backgrounder to learn how child marriage, even if by “choice,” denies young people the opportunity to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

Read Our Compilation of Marriage Age Laws

This chart is an eye-opening compilation of the actual text of all 50 states’ laws on minimum marriage age and exceptions that among other things, highlights how many states set which age “floors” for marriage.

Read Our 50-State Child Marriage Report

This report is the first comprehensive analysis of provisions in all 50 states and Washington, DC that leave children more vulnerable to forced marriage and the harms of early marriage. The report provides state lawmakers and advocates in the United States with the information they need to pass laws that protect children from the harms of forced marriage.

Track Progress in the Movement to End Child Marriage

This report outlines progress made and additional reforms needed to end child marriage in America, both at the state and federal level. It contains the latest analysis (updated May 13, 2020) on all twenty-five states that have recently enacted laws to end or limit child marriage, calling out the strengths and weaknesses of each reform.

Read Survivors’ Stories

The Tahirih Justice Center is proud to release our Child Marriage in the U.S.: Survivor Story Compilation. This report demonstrates the impact of child marriage on girls and women in the U.S., and we hope these survivor voices and stories will inspire others to join the movement.

Get Help

If you are facing or fleeing a forced marriage or know someone who is, contact the Forced Marriage Initiative at Tahirih Justice Center.