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What is the legal age of consent for marriage in Washington?

The legal age of consent for marriage in Washington State has evolved over time and is currently set to balance the need for individual autonomy with the protection of minors from coerced or premature marriages. As of the latest statutes, an individual must be at least 18 years old to marry without parental or court approval. However, those who are 17 years old may marry with the consent of a parent or legal guardian if the older party to the marriage is not more than two years older than the minor, and if a superior court judge of the county in which one of the parties resides approves the marriage as being in the best interest of the minor.

Historically, many states, including Washington, allowed individuals to marry at younger ages, often with parental consent. This was partly due to societal norms and economic factors that encouraged earlier marriages. However, recognition of the potential for abuse and exploitation led to reforms in marriage laws across the United States. In recent decades, there has been a trend toward increasing the legal age for marriage to protect minors from forced marriages and to ensure that individuals entering into marriage do so with maturity and informed consent.

In cases where individuals under 17 years old seek to marry, Washington law does not permit these marriages, recognizing the importance of protecting those who are still legally considered children from entering into binding legal contracts such as marriage. The law aims to prevent potential negative outcomes associated with child marriage including interrupted education, economic disadvantages, and increased vulnerability to domestic violence.

It's important for those considering marriage in Washington State to be aware of these legal requirements. Failure to meet the age of consent for marriage could result in legal consequences including annulment or criminal charges where statutory rape laws apply.