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West Virginia Updates Age Requirements to Marry, Bans Marriage for Children Under 16

Published Thursday, Apr. 6th, 2023


Beginning June 9, 2023, children under the age of 16 won’t be allowed to marry in West Virginia, without exception. Minors between the ages of 16 and 18 will only be allowed to marry if their partners are no more than 4 years older, and they have the written consent of a guardian. 


In addition, all minors must sign a statement affirming that they are marrying voluntarily and have not been coerced or forced into marriage.


The new law (HB3018) was passed on March 11th and signed by Gov. Jim Justice on March 28th, after being ‘resurrected’ earlier in the month following initial rejection in the Senate. 


Related: The West Virginia bill to ban child marriage isn’t dead yet


Currently, children of any age can marry a partner of any age with the written consent of their guardian and the approval of a circuit judge (at the court’s discretion). Children between the ages of 16 and 18 only need the written consent of their guardian(s) to marry.



Read the entire updated law below.  


See all West Virginia marriage laws here. 



Changes to the minimum age to marry in West Virginia reflect an increasing national awareness about the negative impacts that underage marriages can have. Similar laws have been introduced or passed in multiple states in the past few years, and at least eight other states are considering similar legislation in 2023, including South Carolina, Vermont, and Washington.


  • See a roundup of 2023 marriage legislation here.


Currently, only seven U.S. states and one U.S. territory strictly prohibit underage marriages: Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Related: How Old Do You Have To Be To Get Married In Each State?

How common is child marriage in the U.S.? According to advocacy group Unchained At Last, nearly 300,000 children were legally married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2018, and “Most were girls wed to adult men an average of four years older.” 


In West Virginia, there have been at least 3,600 marriages involving a minor since the year 2000 (according to the Del. Young, via AP News). 




Effective June 9, 2023: 


West Virginia Code 


§48-2-106. Proof of age.


At the time of the execution of the application, the clerk or other person administering the oath to the applicants shall require evidence of the age of each of the applicants and shall not issue a license until it has been confirmed that each applicant satisfies the age requirements for marriage set forth by §48-2-301 of this code. Evidence of age may be as follows:


(1) A certified copy of a birth certificate or a duplicate certificate produced by any means that accurately reproduces the original;

(2) A voter's registration certificate;

(3) An operator's or chauffeur's license;

(4) The affidavit of both parents or the legal guardian of the applicant; or

(5) Other good and sufficient evidence.



§48-2-301. Age of consent for marriage; exception.

(a) The age of consent for marriage for all persons, both male and female, is 18 years of age. A person under the age of 18 lacks the capacity to marry without the consents required by this section.


(b) The clerk of the county commission may issue a marriage license to an applicant who is under the age of 18 but at least 16 years of age if the clerk obtains valid written consent from the applicant and from the applicant's parent or parents or the applicant's legal guardian or guardians as outlined in this section: Provided, That a marriage license may not be issued to an applicant who is under the age of 18 but who is at least 16 years of age if the person whom the applicant seeks to marry is more than four years older than the applicant.


(c)  An applicant who is under the age of 18 but who is at least 16 years of age must give his or her signed and acknowledged affirmation that he or she is freely and voluntarily choosing to enter into a marriage with the person named in the application as part of the written consent required by this section. The applicant must also provide, as part of the same written consent, a signed and acknowledged affirmation that his or her decision to enter into the marriage is not the product of duress or coercion by any person.


(d) A consent to marry must be duly acknowledged before an officer authorized to acknowledge a deed. If the parents of the applicant are living together at the time the application for a marriage license is made and the consent is given, the signatures of both parents or the signature of the applicant's legal guardian or guardians is required. If one parent is dead, the signature of the surviving parent or the applicant's legal guardian or guardians is required. If both parents are dead, the signature of the applicant's legal guardian or guardians is required. If the parents of the applicant are living separate and apart, the signature of the parent or parents having decision-making authority for the applicant, or the applicant's legal guardian or guardians is required: Provided, That, if the applicant's parents are separate and apart or divorced but have substantially equal parenting rights over the applicant, the signature of both parents is required.


(e) A person who is under the age of 18 but at least 16 years of age and who is married in accordance with the provisions of this section may petition, without the consent of his or her parents or legal guardian or guardians, for an annulment of that marriage until he or she reaches 18 years of age.


(f) Nothing in this section may serve to annul or void a marriage entered into prior to the re-enactment of this statute during the 2023 Regular Session of the Legislature, nor shall it serve to annul or void an otherwise legal marriage entered into in a jurisdiction outside of the State of West Virginia.






Get ordained online to officiate weddings! 


Read How to Become a Wedding Officiant in West Virginia


Conviértete en un Oficiante de Bodas en West Virginia

Friends and family members can perform legal weddings in West Virginia if they've been ordained online. Ordination with American Marriage Ministries is inclusive, free, easy, and fast. Click the link below to get started and learn how to officiate weddings today. 









Stay up to date on marriage laws in your state


Lawmakers around the country will be discussing dozens of proposed changes to marriage laws in the coming days and weeks.


AMM works hard to keep our ministers informed of important changes to the marriage laws in their states and around the country, to ensure that they have the information they need to officiate weddings and serve their communities well. 


To stay informed on what’s new in your state, visit the AMM News Page on the blog and subscribe to AMM’s Monthly Newsletter: 






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American Marriage Ministries is a non-profit, interfaith and non-denominational constitutional church that provides free ordination, advocacy, and training for our ministers to ensure that all people have the right to get married and to perform marriage. Learn more here. 




Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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