Understanding New Jersey's laws on marriage between first cousins

Overview of New Jersey Marriage Laws Regarding First Cousins

In the state of New Jersey, marriage laws are governed by Title 37 of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated (N.J.S.A.). These statutes lay down the legal framework for all matrimonial matters within the state's jurisdiction, including the rules pertaining to marriages between first cousins. Unlike some states in the US, New Jersey law does not prohibit marriage between first cousins. This means that two individuals who share a common grandparent are legally permitted to marry each other in New Jersey.

Legal Justifications and Public Policy

The allowance of first cousin marriages in New Jersey is a reflection of the state's legal and cultural attitudes towards familial relationships and genetic concerns. The decision not to ban such unions may be rooted in the belief that adults should have the freedom to choose their marital partners without undue restriction from the state, as long as the relationship does not harm the public welfare.

While opponents of first cousin marriage often cite increased risks of genetic disorders in offspring as a primary concern, proponents argue that these risks may be overstated. In fact, a comprehensive study by the National Society of Genetic Counselors found that children of first cousins face only a slightly higher risk of genetic disorders compared to children born to unrelated parents.

Historical Context and Cultural Considerations

The legality of first cousin marriage in New Jersey has historical underpinnings. In the past, when communities were more isolated and travel was less common, marriages between first cousins were more prevalent due to limited social circles. As society evolved, many states revised their marriage laws to reflect new social norms and scientific understanding. However, New Jersey has maintained its stance on allowing these types of marriages.

Cultural considerations also play a role in this matter. Some cultures and religions are more accepting of first cousin marriages, considering them a way to strengthen family ties. Since New Jersey is home to a diverse population with varying beliefs and traditions, its marriage laws can be seen as accommodating this diversity.

Statutory Requirements for Marriage in New Jersey

To marry in New Jersey, first cousins must meet the same statutory requirements as any other couple. This includes obtaining a marriage license from the Registrar of Vital Statistics in the municipality where either party resides. Both parties must be at least 18 years old or have parental consent if younger. They must also provide proof of identity, undergo a blood test for certain diseases if required, and adhere to a 72-hour waiting period after applying for a marriage license before the ceremony can be performed.


New Jersey's laws on marriage between first cousins demonstrate an inclusive approach that respects personal choice while balancing public health considerations. As with any matrimonial decision, individuals contemplating marriage to a first cousin should be fully informed about potential legal implications and health risks. It's worth noting that while first cousin marriages are legal in New Jersey, this is not the case in all states; hence couples should consider potential legal challenges if they plan to move elsewhere.