CHILD USA firmly believes that “child marriage” is synonymous with “forced marriage,” as minors are legally incapable of providing consent. For this reason, CHILD USA defines both “child marriage” and “forced marriage” as a formal marriage or informal union where one or both parties is under the age of eighteen.  Today, the global rates of child marriage are high.  According to UNICEF, approximately twelve million girls — or one in five — across the world are married before their eighteenth birthday each year.  In the United States, child marriage is a pervasive issue with devastating domestic consequences.  Between 2000 and 2018, almost 300,000 children were married in the United States alone, with approximately 60,000 of those marriages occurring at a spousal age difference that should have been considered a sex crime.

Because there is no federal law regulating child marriage, states are free to establish their own requirements.  Child marriage remains legal or unchecked in 48 states.  While most states do impose a minimum marriage age, the majority of them set that age at under 18. Additionally, the majority do not require marriage applicants to furnish official proof of their age, which allows many underage children to slip through the cracks.  Other states permit the practice to continue through parental, judicial, religious, or pregnancy exceptions.  Only two states — Minnesota and New York — have banned child marriage outright by requiring that both parties provide official proof that they are 18 years or older before they can obtain a marriage license.

Child marriage is a gendered practice with grave social, financial, physical, and psychological consequences.  The United States Department of State has called marriage before 18 a “humans rights abuse” that “produces devastating repercussions for a girl’s life, effectively ending her childhood.”  To protect children and secure their futures, the practice of child marriage must be outlawed.  The movement to end child marriage and sex abuse in the United States is growing, and CHILD USA is dedicated to reforming the laws to ensure children are not married before the age of 18.


The number of U.S. States considering bills to end child marriage is growing.  Click  here to see all pending child marriage legislation and revelant bill texts.



Alaska House votes to prohibit marriage for children 15 and younger

James Brooks | March 10, 2022






Child Marriage Is Still Legal In Forty-Four U.S. States, And This Nonprofit Organization Has Taken The Fight Into Their Own Hands

Katharina Buczek| March 7, 2022


The age of marriage is being raised in England and Wales

The Economist | March 5, 2022

Child marriage becomes a legal loophole in custody fights: “The list of horrors goes on and on”
March 2, 2022


Orphans in Odisha face child marriage risk, Nabarangpur on alert.

Prashant Sahu| June 28, 2021


Child marriages increase during pandemic due to struggling economic conditions, report says

Tasha Wibawa | June 19, 2021





RI governor poised to sign ban on marriage under age 18

| June 5, 2021

Child marriage bill still moving through NC legislature