Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill into law Tuesday raising the minimum age to marry to age 17.
The law also strengthens the process to obtain court approval for a marriage of minors at least 17 but under 18 years of age.
The minimum age to marry in New York State under the previous law was 14.
A 14- or 15-year old could marry with parental consent and court approval while a 16- or 17-year old could marry with parental consent. The prior law enabled children to be forced into marriage by their parents who brought their children before the court or the court clerk to provide their “consent”. In reality, the consent was a sham as the parents had forced their child to marry, threatening the child with ostracism, beatings or death if the child refused.
“Children who are 14 and 15 years old should be worrying about their schoolwork and spending time with their friends, not whether they have to get married," said Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, who represents parts of Southern Westchester, who sponsored the bill, said. "Girls marrying much older men are being abused physically, mentally and emotionally. Marriage at such a young age destroys the lives of young girls. I am relieved we have changed this outdated law so that we can end this intolerable practice.”
The new law requires the appointment of an attorney for the child who has received training in domestic violence that includes a component of forced marriage, as well as requires the court to hold an in camera interview, separately with each minor party, and make specific written findings.
The law also provides that if the court approves the marriage, each minor party will have all the rights of an adult, including the right to enter into a contract, except for specific constitutional and statutory age requirements.