Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Amy Paulin today announced the Assembly has passed legislation to raise the minimum age for marriage to 17 years of age. The legislation would prohibit anyone under the age of 17 from marrying and establish a rigorous court approval process for 17-year-olds seeking to marry in New York State (A.5524-A, Paulin). Unlike under existing law, 14, 15 and 16-year-olds would not be permitted to marry under any circumstances.
"Allowing children as young as 14 to marry in New York is irresponsible and jeopardizes the well-being and future of our youth," said Speaker Heastie. "This legislation will protect thousands of young people from being exploited and help ensure that anyone in the state seeking a marriage license is doing so on their own free will."
"This common sense legislation will help bring an end to forced child marriage in New York State," said Paulin. "This practice is a violation of human rights that has consistently had a disproportionately discriminatory effect on young girls, inflicting physical and mental health issues, robbing them of educational opportunities, and increasing their risk of experiencing violence."
Under the bill, any 17-year-old seeking a marriage license would be required to get written approval of a justice of the Supreme Court or a judge of the Family Court who presides in the town or city where the application is made. In addition, the court must appoint, for each minor, an attorney who has been trained in domestic violence and forced marriage issues.
Before issuing any approval, the justice or judge must notify any seventeen-year-old of his or her rights concerning termination of marriage, child and spousal support, domestic violence services, and access to public benefits and other assistance.
The court would also be required to conduct a review of court-related actions involving the applicants including any warrants, orders of protection and the sex offender registry.
The court would be required to separately interview each applicant who is seventeen years of age to ensure that:
Lastly, upon court approval, each 17-year-old would have the rights of an adult, including the right to enter into contracts, except where a specific constitutional or statutory age threshold or limitation exists, such as exists for voting and for consumption of alcoholic beverages.