Idaho Supreme Court won’t weigh legality of child marriage

Legal Events

A legal loophole in Idaho that allows parents of teens to nullify child custody agreements by arranging child marriages will remain in effect, under a ruling from the state Supreme Court on Tuesday.

In a split decision, the high court declined to decide whether Idaho’s child marriage law — which allows 16- and 17-year-olds to marry if one parent agrees to the union — is unconstitutional. Instead, the justices said that once a child is emancipated by marriage, the family court loses jurisdiction over custody matters.

The case arose from a custody battle between a Boise woman and her ex-husband, who planned to move to Florida and wanted to take their 16-year-old daughter along. The ex-husband was accused of setting up a “sham marriage” between his daughter and another teen as a way to end the custody fight.

It’s not a rare scenario — all but seven states allow minors below the age of 18 to marry, according to Unchained At Last, an organization that opposes child marriage. Nevada, Idaho, Arkansas and Kentucky have the highest rates of child marriage per capita, according to the organization. Although minors are generally considered legally emancipated once they are married, they generally still have limited legal rights and so may be unable to file for divorce or seek a protective order.

Erin Carver and William Hornish divorced in 2012, and only their youngest was still living at home last year when both sides began disputing the custody arrangements.

Carver said she learned Hornish was planning a “sham marriage” for the teen to end the custody battle, and asked the family court magistrate to stop the marriage plans. Several days later, the magistrate judge agreed, but it was too late. The teen had already married.

The high court heard arguments in March, and Carver’s attorney contended that the child marriage law is unconstitutional because it allows one parent to terminate another parent’s rights without due process. Hornish’s attorney, Geoffrey Goss, countered that his client had acted legally and followed state law.

In Tuesday’s ruling, a majority of the Supreme Court justices said that because the marriage had occurred before an initial ruling was made, the family court lost jurisdiction. Once a child is married, they are emancipated and no longer subject to child custody arrangements, the high court said.

Related listings

  • Mississippi seeks to derail federal suits over mental health

    Mississippi seeks to derail federal suits over mental health

    Legal Events 10/08/2022

    The U.S. Justice Department overreached in suing Mississippi over its mental health system, the state’s solicitor general has argued to a federal appeals court.A Justice Department attorney countered that there’s ample precedent to show t...

  • Bench trial for a man accused of killing 2 women in Phoenix

    Bench trial for a man accused of killing 2 women in Phoenix

    Legal Events 10/02/2022

    A bench trial is scheduled to begin Monday for a man accused of sexually attacking and fatally stabbing two young women in separate killings nearly 30 years ago near a metro Phoenix canal system.Bryan Patrick Miller, 49, is charged with two counts ea...

  • Biden taps Montana law professor to be 9th Circuit judge

    Biden taps Montana law professor to be 9th Circuit judge

    Legal Events 09/07/2022

    President Joe Biden nominated has nominated a University of Montana law professor to be a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.Anthony Johnstone is a former solicitor for the state of Montana who has taught at the University of Montana sinc...

New York Adoption, Foster Care Litigation and Family Law

Rosin Steinhagen Mendel is a law firm dedicated to serving our clients in New York City, the surrounding counties in southern New York State, and in New Jersey, in the areas of adoption, foster care litigation, and family law.

We represent our clients in all types of proceedings that include termination of parental rights, permanency hearings, custody hearings, guardianship, administrative proceedings, and adoption. Our goal is to provide each of our clients with the best possible representation in all aspects of their cases, and clients appreciate our careful analysis of individual cases, through preparation and attention to detail. For over 35 years, our attorneys have represented adoptive parents, birth parents, foster parents, children, foster care agencies, and adoption agencies. We represent our clients in all types of proceedings that include termination of parental rights, permanency hearings, custody hearings, guardianship, administrative proceedings, and adoption.

Our goal for our lawyers is to provide each of our clients with the best possible representation in all aspects of their cases, and clients appreciate our careful analysis of individual cases, through our preparation and attention to detail.