When researching the varying marriage laws in California and some neighboring states in the northwest, I stumbled upon a marriage law in California that was both surprising and disturbing. Keep reading to see the unsettling point at which California marriage law diverges from most of its neighboring states.

Sandy Millar - Unsplash
Sandy Millar - Unsplash

Common-Law Marriage Laws in the Northwest

I didn't find too much out of the ordinary when it comes to common-law marriage recognition. Common-law marriage laws are relatively consistent throughout the Northwest and most states no longer recognize common-law marriage.

California hasn’t recognized common-law marriages in more than 100 years. California will recognize common-law marriages from out-of-state transplants. Otherwise, you’ll need to get married or file for a domestic partnership if you want your domestic status to be recognized by the courts.

Idaho repealed common law in the late '90s and will not recognize any common-law marriage after January 1, 1996.

Utah doesn't recognize common-law marriage but allows for a couple to petition the court to recognize their relationship between consenting parties of legal age.

Washington State does not recognize a common-law marriage; Like California, it does recognize the common-law union of those moving in from another state that acknowledges common-law status. Washington also has a doctrine similar to common law called a Committed Intimate Relationship wherein a couple may petition the court to grant them status that treats them like a married couple as long as certain criteria are met.

Tingey Injury Lawfirm - Unsplash
Tingey Injury Lawfirm - Unsplash

Legal Age of Consent for Marriage

When it comes to the legal age of consent for marriage throughout the Northwest, the states are largely in agreement, except for Washington State. The legal age of consent in California, Idaho, and Utah is 18, without exception. Washington State currently allows minors at 17 to marry without parental consent, but it’s worth noting that a bill is heading to Washington's governor to raise the minimum age requirement to 18.

Marriage of Minors with Parental Consent

This is where California (and Idaho) diverges from neighboring states. With some exceptions, most states have some minimum age requirement for marriage, with parental consent.

Washington and Utah list 16 as the lowest age the states will allow for marriage with parental or guardian consent.

Google Street View
Google Street View

No Age Limit on the Marriage of Minors with Parental Consent in California

You may be surprised to learn that California will allow for the marriage of a child of any age as long as they have permission from at least one legal guardian and permission from the state.

A bill introduced in California in 2017 aimed to set the minimum age to 18 failed to pass. Currently, minors under 18 in California may marry with at least one consenting parent, and the union must be approved by a California Superior Court judge. 

Idaho will also allow for child marriage under the age of 16 with parental consent if permission is obtained from the court.

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