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Texas Underage Marriage Laws

By Cindy Chung
Teenagers may encounter difficulties when applying for Texas marriage licenses.

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When a couple wishes to marry in Texas, the state's marriage laws include extra requirements and restrictions for future spouses who are minors. Underage couples may still be able to legally marry if they follow the additional requirements. If they do not comply with Texas law, however, the minor's age may serve as grounds for annulment of the marriage.

Marriage License Requirements

Each future spouse who is under the age of 16 must have parental consent before a Texas county will issue a marriage license. The parent must go to the county clerk's office with the minor to apply for the license. Each future spouse who is 16 or 17 years old must have either parental consent or a court order indicating judicial consent. Any individual who is under the age of 18 and applying for a marriage license must provide the county clerk with a copy of the individual's long-form birth certificate.

Common Law Marriage

Texas, unlike many other U.S. states, recognizes common-law marriage. In a common-law marriage, also known as informal marriage, the couple does not obtain a marriage license from the state as for a formal marriage. Instead, the spouses agree to marry and conduct themselves as a married couple, as defined by Texas law. Underage couples, however, do not qualify to have an informal marriage. The state recognizes common-law marriages formed by minors before 1997, but the state does not currently allow minors to form new common-law marriages. If two underage individuals or one adult and one minor attempt to enter into an informal marriage, the state may consider the marriage to be null and void.

Grounds for Annulment

Under Texas law, the age of a minor may serve as grounds to annul a marriage. Section 6.102 of the Texas Family Code explains the procedures for annulment of a marriage if one of the spouses was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage but did not obtain parental consent or a court order before marrying. The section lists the parties who may file a lawsuit for annulment; these parties include the underage spouse's parent. Though a spouse's age may result in annulment, section 6.104 of the Family Code states that the Texas court hearing the case has the discretion to grant or deny the annulment. The judge may decline to annul a marriage for a number of reasons, such as if the wife is pregnant.

Time Period for Annulment

Section 6.103 of the Texas Family Code sets time limits for the filing of annulment petitions. If the spouse was underage at the time of marriage but has now already reached the age of 18, a parent can no longer file a lawsuit for an annulment. Furthermore, in some situations, an adult representative of the minor, also known in Texas as the minor's "next friend," may file the annulment lawsuit on the minor's behalf. Under section 6.102, the next friend may only do so within 90 days of the couple's marriage date.

About the Author

Cindy Chung is a California-based professional writer. She writes for various websites on legal topics and other areas of interest. She holds a B.A. in education and a Juris Doctor.

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