New Legislation Could Finally Put an End to Child Marriage in Michigan
There is currently no age limit in Michigan when it comes to tying the knot. New legislation being introduced could put an end to child marriages, raising the minimum age to 18.
Child Marriage in Michigan Statistics
In 2022, Human Rights Watch gave Michigan a failing grade when it comes to protecting the rights of children, in part due to our lax laws regarding child marriage.
Under current Michigan law, there is no legal age limit for getting married. Boys and girls who are 16 or 17 years of age can legally marry if they obtain permission and a signature from a parent. Children younger than 16 can legally tie the knot with a judge's signature.
According to Mlive, more than 5,400 minors were married in the 11-year period between 2000 and 2021 in Michigan. Among that group were 11 children who were 15 years old and one minor who was 14. According to state records, 90 percent of those teenagers who got married were girls.
Michigan Lawmakers Attempt to Effect Change
State Representative Kara Hope helped introduce a bill in 2021 that would end the practice. However, that measure stalled.
In 2018, State Senator Sarah Anthony introduced legislation that would put an end to teens in Michigan being able to say "I do."
Today, Anthony is renewing her push for change, noting that the measure could have a better chance of passing now that Michigan's legislature has Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.
Group Hopes to End Child Marriage
Fraidy Reiss is the founder and executive director of Unchained at Last, an organization dedicated to putting an end to child marriages. She says part of the problem lies in the fact that people under 18 are not able to legally sign contracts.
“A child who tries to retain an attorney, she’s almost certainly not going to be able to do so, because contracts with minors in Michigan are voidable,” Reiss said. “Perhaps most shockingly, because minors cannot bring a legal action in their own name, they’re not even allowed to seek an annulment independently.”