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Governor Cooper signs new bill to amend the lawful age of marriage to 16 but with conditions

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Last Updated on August 26, 2021 6:08 pm

Governor Cooper on Thursday signed a new bill to amend the lawful age of marriage to 16 years of age or older but with some conditions.

The newly signed Senate Bill 35 states that persons over 16 years of age and under 18 years of age may marry a person no more than four years older.

Governor Cooper made the following statement on SB 35, “This legislation is an important step toward ending child marriage in North Carolina and instituting more protections for children. While it falls short of raising the age of marriage to 18, it will make our state a safer place for children.”

A district court judge may issue an order authorizing a marriage between a person over 16 years of age and under 18 years of age, to a person no more than four years older only upon finding that the underage party is capable of assuming the responsibilities of marriage and the marriage will serve the best interest of the underage party.

In determining whether the marriage will serve the best interest of an underage party, the district court shall consider the following:

  1. The opinion of the parents of the underage party as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party.
  2. The opinion of any person, agency, or institution having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party.
  3. The opinion of the guardian ad litem appointed to represent the best interest of the underage party pursuant to G.S. 51-2.1(b) as to whether the marriage serves the best interest of the underage party.
  4. The relationship between the underage party and the parents of the underage party, as well as the relationship between the underage party and any person having legal custody or serving as a guardian of the underage party.
  5. Any evidence that it would find useful in making its determination. There shall be a rebuttable presumption that the marriage will not serve the best interest of the underage party when all living parents of the underage party oppose the marriage. The fact that the female is pregnant, or has given birth to a child, alone does not establish that the best interest of the underage party will be served by the marriage.


Those 14 years old could marry under the previous bill as that bill read:

If an unmarried female who is more than 14 years of age, but less than 16 years of age, was pregnant or has given birth to a child and the unmarried female and the putative father of the child, either born or unborn, agree to marry, or if an unmarried male who is more than 14 years of age, but less than 16 years of age, is the putative father of a child, either born or unborn, and the unmarried male and the mother of the child agree to marry, the register of deeds was authorized to issue to the parties a license to marry.

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