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At what age can I legally get married in Texas?

Texas has the second highest number of child marriages in the nation, but now the state is taking steps to eliminate the practice. The Governor of Texas recently signed a bill into law that will close current loopholes that allow child marriages in Texas. Under the new law, no one can marry unless they are at least 18 years of age or an emancipated minor, and therefore a legal adult. The new law could result in fewer divorces in Texas due to the high number of divorces among people that marry at a young age.

Child Marriages in Texas

Before passage of this new law, teens aged 16 and 17 could get married in Texas with the approval of just one parent, even over the objection of the other parent. With a judge’s approval, parents that consented could marry off their children of any age. These laws resulted in one of the highest child-marriage rates in the nation, according to a 2016 Pew Research Center report. It is believed that nearly seven out of every 1,000 minors between the ages of 15 to 17 are married in Texas, a rate well above the national average. In a 14-year period between 2000 and 2014, almost 40,000 minors wed in Texas. Most of these minors were adolescent girls, some as young as 12.  

Several studies have linked child marriage to poor outcomes for those involved. Girls who get married young are twice as likely to drop out of high school and four times less likely to finish college, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Additionally, those who marry young are at higher risk of divorce. It has been shown that those that make important life decisions at such a young age are less likely to do so effectively due to a lack of maturity.

For young couples that do want to wed, emancipation is still an option. Children that are 17 or 16 and live apart from their parents can file to become emancipated. They will need to show that they can manage their own finances and support themselves. Emancipation is a serious proceeding that should only be done with knowledge of the consequences and careful weighing of the potential benefits.