Ohio raises minimum age to marry to 17, banning child marriages

MARIETTA, Ohio (WTAP) - There will be no more underage marriages in the state of Ohio.

Before leaving office, former Ohio Governor John Kasich signed into law a bill raising the minimum age to get married for both men and women to 17.

Previously, males had to be at least 18 years old and females 16 years-old but exceptions could be made for younger, pregnant girls. And they were.

A 2017 investigation by the Dayton Daily News found that over 4,000 girls, 17 or younger, were married between 2000 and 2015 in Ohio. 59 of those marriages involved girls 15 years old or younger, with the most shocking being a 14-year-old pregnant girl marrying a 48-year-old man.

The new measure boosts the minimum marriage age to 18 for both parties but allows for 17-year-olds to marry if they have juvenile court approval, go through a 14-day waiting period and the age difference between the two isn’t more than four years.

Washington County probate Judge Tim Williams says he’s pleased not only with the new minimum age but protections like the four-year difference.

"I just don't think a 16 or under, even a lot of 17 year olds, or 18 year olds are mature enough," he said. "Some people shouldn't be married til they're 30. But 16 and under was just two young, you know, so this is a good step."

"I think it brings us out of the dark ages into a more modern age where we're at actually protecting the kids the way we should."

Ohio is now one of seven states with a minimum age to marry at 17. There are 17 states that still have no minimum age.