You have probably heard that Arkansas has one of the highest rates of divorce in the county. It is true. One significant reason for the high divorce rate is the relatively young marriage age in Arkansas: 24 for women (the lowest in the country) and 26 for men, which is also among the youngest.
So, in effect, Arkansans have continued getting married young like our grandparents but have adopted the modern culture’s easy exit: divorce. Or, put another way, Arkansans feel a strong compulsion to marry early but little compulsion to stay married. I have no hard data to back up this conclusion, but my experience has borne it out.
Now that we’re talking about how young people in Arkansas are when they get married, we can talk about just how young you can be to get married.
In Arkansas, a male who is 17 years old and a female who is 16 years old may marry with the consent of their parents. (Nerdy aside: Surely this is unconstitutional.) Both parents must consent unless they are divorced and only one parent has custody. A court can also find that, even with the parents’ consent, it is not in the best interest of the child to get married.
The age can be even lower if the female is pregnant or has given birth already. In that instance, the parties can appear before a judge and argue their case for why they should be married. If the judge is persuaded by their arguments, she can then direct the county clerk to issue a marriage license. Arkansas law does not provide any limitation on a judge’s discretion to allow the parties to marry. So, theoretically you can get married as soon as you are pregnant.
I have not ever been hired by a teenage couple to represent them in court, but it is a task best reserved for a family lawyer. The couple must be prepared to present specific evidence regarding the female’s pregnancy and convince the judge that it is in their best interest to be married. As in the non-pregnant example above, both parents must consent to the marriage.
So, I guess the takeaway is that if you’re a female under 16 who is pregnant and wants to get married, I can help.
Whatever your exact situation is, I can’t help unless you get in touch with me. Give me a call and we’ll get started on your case today.