North Carolina Marriage laws for Minors
In North Carolina, any person over 18 may marry a person of the opposite sex, except a close blood relative. However, persons as young as 14 may still be allowed to marry under certain circumstances. In some cases, a court order may be necessary to allow the marriage to proceed.
Persons between the ages of 16 and 18 may legally marry with the written consent of their parents or legal guardians. The only exception is for minors previously emancipated by the courts. Persons between the ages of 14 and 16 may only marry if the bride-to-be is pregnant or has given birth to a child. In those cases, a judge must issue a court order granting permission to marry, provided he finds the underage party is “capable of assuming the responsibilities of marriage and the marriage will serve the best interest of the underage party.”
North Carolina family law presumes it is not in the underage person’s best interest to marry, so the burden is on him or her to prove otherwise.
In determining an underage person’s best interests, the court will look at a number of factors, including the opinions of the underage person’s parents or legal guardians, the relationship between the underage person and the parents or guardians, and the opinion of a lawyer appointed by the court to represent the underage person. This lawyer, known as a guardian ad litem, is responsible for investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding the underage person’s request to marry, including “the available resources within the family or community” and the person’s “emotional development, maturity, intellect, and understanding.” The guardian at litem may look at the underage person’s confidential medical and psychological records, which are not protected by legal privilege but must remain confidential between the guardian ad litem and the court.
If the judge denies a person under the age of 16 permission to marry, he or she may not seek permission again for at least one year. If a person marries before the age of 16 without a court’s permission, the marriage is void unless the wife is pregnant or has given birth to a still-living child. If a person under the age of 18 lies about his or her age to obtain a marriage license, the person’s parent or legal guardian may bring suit in the district court to have the marriage annulled.