Current Law Allows Hudson Valley Children to Marry at 14
In a likely little known law, New York State children can get married at 14. A local politician is hoping to change that.
On Tuesday, Assemblywoman Amy Pauli (D-Westchester) held a press conference to discuss legislation she introduced to change child marriage laws in the state.
The current minimum age to marry in New York State is 14. If a child is 16 or 17, she can marry with parental consent. If a child is 14 or 15, she can marry with parental consent plus the approval of the court.
“Nearly 4,000 minors were married in New York between 2000 and 2010 and more than 84 percent of those children were minor girls married to adult men,” Paulin stated. “An adult can sexually abuse a child and avoid statutory rape charges by marrying the child. If an adult has sex with someone 16 or younger it is statutory rape but if the adult marries the child, then he can force her to have non-consensual sex whenever he wants. A child under 17 does not have the capacity to consent to sex under our penal law.”
Pauli believes the current law also allows parents to force their children into marriage by threatening children with beatings or punishment if they don’t appear eager to get married while in court.
“This is an appalling practice that destroys the lives of young girls,” Pauli said. “How is it possible that we allow a 14-year-old to get married? Yet we don’t allow her any practical ways out. She can’t sue for divorce in her own name. Under current law, she would have to sue for divorce through a parent, who likely forced her into the marriage in the first place.”
Pauli’s bill would ban children under the age of 17 from getting married. Children between 17 and 18 years old would require court approval.
“I can’t even begin to imagine the physical, psychological and emotional traumas these children have suffered,” Paulin added. “We must safeguard the health, safety and welfare of our children, who are the future of our society.”
New York is currently one of three states that allow 14-year-olds to marry, along with Alaska and North Carolina, NBC reports. 27 states have no minimum age