Child marriage is still legal in most of the U.S. Here’s why.

Publication Date

30 October 2023

Publication Author

Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech

At age 14, Genevieve Meyer began spending time with a neighbor to get a break from her hectic home life.

Her relationship with the neighbor, a 42-year-old divorced father of two, soon turned sexual. Meyer’s mother eventually found out, and she called the police.

But she believed that Meyer had “ruined this man’s life” by seducing him, according to Meyer, and the neighbor and Meyer’s mother ultimately decided that he and the teen would get married so that any criminal charges would be dropped.

In return, Meyer’s mother would get a cut from the profits of the neighbor’s tree-trimming business.

Meyer, now 43, was shocked when her mother told her about the deal.

“My immediate response was 14-year-olds don’t get married,” Meyer said. “But I was wrong.”

Thousands of children and teens are legally wed in the United States each year: almost 300,000 minors got married between 2000 and 2018, according to one 2021 study by Unchained at Last, a nonprofit that helps women and girls get out of forced marriages.