In the last two years, more than 12 states have debated bills that ask the same question: Should child marriage be legal in the United States? So far, every state has conditionally answered, “yes.”
What’s often neglected is an important follow-up question: Can a minor who marries get a divorce?
According to divorce lawyer Nancy Zalusky Berg, the answer to that is no, not directly. A minor can’t file for a divorce because they’re not considered old enough to do it. That’s because marriage is considered a contract, and most laws stipulate that only adults can enter into contracts. So, if a minor wants to change their marriage contract, they need an adult to help them do it. “Our laws around marriage operate under the presumption that everyone’s an adult,” Berg explains to Teen Vogue. That’s a conflict when you consider that, between 2000 and 2015, there were at least 207,468 child marriages that occurred in 44 states, according to figures from PBS’s Frontline.