Maryland’s Failure to Increase the Minimum Age to Marry

Since 2016, there have been multiple failed attempts to pass legislation increasing the minimum age to marry in Maryland. The 2017 Maryland General Assembly Session was no exception. This year saw two.

HB484, sought to increase the minimum age from 15 to 18 years old, with exceptions for 16 and 17 year olds who have parental or guardian consent and meet other qualifications. No hearing was held on HB484, its assigned Committee (House Judiciary) issued an unfavorable report, and its sponsor withdrew the bill.

HB799, sought to increase the minimum age from 15 to 18 years old, without exceptions. HB799, on the other hand, passed the House, crossed over to the Senate, passed the Senate with amendments, landing and dying in Conference Committee without resolving the differences.

Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary sponsored both bills and initiated like efforts in the 2016 Session.

The Senate’s amendments proposed to raise the minimum age from 15 to 16 years old, continuing existing requirements of 16 and 17 year olds to obtain either parental consent or medical certification of pregnancy or birth of a child (though, interestingly, not certifying that the child is the offspring of the marriage applicants), and eliminating existing law on marriage licensing (Family Law Article §§2-402 and 2-405).

The fundamental difference between the House and Senate versions is age. According to HB799’s Fiscal Note, in 2014 there were 76 marriages of persons aged 15 to 17 years old. So, this is not just theoretical and antiquated.

Why does this matter? Sponsor Del. Atterbeary argues that the majority of married minors are female and that existing law fosters coercion, concealment of statutory rape, human trafficking, as well as escape from and concealment of family abuse.

The following news story discusses this trend on a national level:…/rundown/lawmakers-raise-marriage-age/. To view the House Judiciary Committee hearing on HB799:…/dc48e5cd-f223-4c42-aa75-b2…/….

My question is whether married minors can divorce? This is not just academic – I was referred such a case in facilitation one day. Look for a future post about the legal disconnects between married minors, age of majority, emancipation, and custody as it relates to the law on divorce of married minors.

Likewise, if you have an opinion on this, contact the House Judiciary and Senate Judicial Proceedings Committees. Contact information:….


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