Friday, May 12, 2017

Some states allow teens to marry, but not to get a divorce or seek help for domestic violence

In New Hampshire, girls as young as 13 can get married, if they have parental consent and a judge’s approval, Rebecca Beitsch reports for Stateline. In 22 other states, the minimum age to marry is 17 or younger. West Virginia tops the nation in highest rate of teen marriage among children ages 15-17, at 7.1 per every 1,000 people. Texas is second at 6.9. Nearly 60,000 15- to 17-year-old Texans, five out of every 1,000, married in 2014. (Stateline map: Rate of teen marriage by state; for an interactive version click here)
While Stateline doesn't account for rural-urban disparities among teen marriage, Beitsch notes that it is more common in the South, Southwest and West, regions with large rural areas.

Also, a 2015 report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy using data from 2010, the most recent year data was available at the time, found that for girls 15-19, the rural teen birth rate was one-third higher than in the rest of the country.

For teens, getting out of a marriage, especially an abusive one, can be difficult, Beitsch writes. "In some states, people under 18 are not permitted to get divorced. Most domestic-violence shelters won’t accept people under 18. And because they are legally still children, those who try to escape a marriage may be returned by social services to the parents who approved the marriage in the first place."

New Hampshire legislators recently shot down a proposal to raise the minimum age to 18, Beitsch writes. Rep. David Bates, a Republican who voted against the bill, said, “It’s not that there’s a bunch of screwball legislators wanting 13-year-olds to get married. I don’t think there’s any justifiable rationale to absolutely prohibit someone in those situations from getting that judicial waiver.”

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