Florida Takes Major Step Toward Ending Child Marriage
Thanks in large part to one brave voice, Florida has taken major steps toward banning child marriage in the state. Sherry Johnson was raped at just eight years old, before being forced to marry her rapist at 11. At the time, Florida law made it impossible for Johnson to legally divorce until she turned 18 years of age.
Today, Johnson fights to eliminate child marriage nationwide, and a recently signed bill by Florida Gov. Rick Scott is the first major victory for Johnson and lawmakers who pushed for much-needed reform of Florida’s child marriage laws. The signed bill will become law in July of 2018, effectively banning marriage for anyone under the age of 17 in Florida.
As for Johnson, she hailed the achievement, feeling as though her goal to protect our children “has been accomplished.” However, activists believe there is still plenty of work to be done across the country, particularly since the newly signed bill was a legal compromise of sorts.
The measure that ultimately passed and signed into law was a weaker version of a previous bill that aimed to set the minimum marriage age in Florida at 18 years of age. Instead, the signed law will allow Florida’s 17-year-olds to marry if parental consent is obtained and their partner in marriage is no more than two years older than the 17-year-old.
If Florida had completely banned child marriage by setting the minimum marriage age at 18, it would have been the first state to do so. Still, it is quite clear that Florida has taken significant steps toward reducing the harms caused to minors like Sherry Johnson and similar victims of child marriage.
What Florida’s New Law Means for Child Marriage and Divorce
Between 2000 and 2015, it is estimated that more than 16,000 minors entered into a Florida marriage. For those marriages, legal divorce was not possible until turning 18. Once the new law takes effect in July, the risk of such a scenario will be reduced since only 17-year-olds will be allowed to marry as minors, and even then under very limited circumstances.
As such, this legal development will greatly reduce the likelihood that a young person wishes for a divorce, but is legally incapable of pursuing one because they have yet to turn 18.
If you have questions for a Tampa divorce lawyer, or are unaware of the terms and conditions of a Tampa divorce, talk to, and retain, a family law attorney who can help. Contact Damien McKinney of The McKinney Law Group to discuss your case further. He can be reached by phone at 813-428-3400 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org