It is currently illegal for first cousins to marry in Delaware.
First cousins once removed and other more distant relationships are allowed.
Delaware does not recognize first cousin marriages that are conducted in other states where the union is legal.
This article looks in depth at aspects of cousin marriage in the state.
What Do The Delaware Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?
The Delaware marriage laws have quite a long list of relationships that are prohibited.
A marriage is prohibited and void between a person and his or her ancestor, descendant, brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew or first cousin.Delaware marriage laws
As you can see, first cousins are explicitly named at the end of the list.
Some other states generally don’t allow first cousin marriage but have some allowances based on age or other criteria.
In contrast, Delaware has a blanket ban within the state. There are no special exceptions.
How first cousins are legal in other states
Many other states have similar long lists of prohibited relationships in their marriage laws. But they stop short of mentioning first cousins.
Their laws don’t say explicitly that first cousins can marry. They simply don’t mention the relationship in their restrictions.
That’s why these marriages are legal in these other states.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Delaware
Other types of cousins can get married in Delaware.
For example, marriages between first cousins once removed are permitted. The children of your first cousins are your first cousins once removed.
If you’re not sure what the different types of relationships mean, check out the links below to articles with easy-to-understand explanations.
“First cousins once removed” in Delaware laws
You may be thinking that the legislators simply couldn’t be bothered listing the different types of first cousins. Are we sure that they didn’t mean to include the “once removed” type?
Well, there are other sections of Delaware family law that get specific about these relationships.
For example, there is a section in the Delaware Code that defines who can be relational caregivers of minors. This section lists persons who are “first cousin or first cousin once removed”.
I mention this just to note that the legislators of marriage law didn’t just forget about this relationship.
What Would Happen If First Cousins Marry In Delaware?
Under the marriage laws at the time of writing, both spouses are guilty of a misdemeanor.
The officials who solemnize the marriage are also guilty if they knew about the relationship.
What if the couple didn’t know at the time?
An invalid marriage should be grounds for an annulment.
There have been cases in other jurisdictions where marriages were successfully annulled when the couple told the courts they hadn’t known they were close cousins.
If you find yourself in this position, you should consult a lawyer as quickly as possible.
What are the penalties?
A conviction could bring a fine. If the fine isn’t paid, then imprisonment is a possibility.
We haven’t found any examples of convictions in recent years.
Does The Delaware Marriage Application Form Ask If You’re Related?
Some U.S. states have a section in their marriage application forms where the couple must state whether they have a blood relationship.
You can see an example in our article on first cousin marriage in Alaska.
We reviewed the Delaware form in 2022. There is no such question present.
Does Delaware Recognize First Cousin Marriages From Other States?
At the time of writing, Delaware does not recognize first cousin marriages conducted in other states.
This is the relevant section in the state laws:
A marriage obtained or recognized outside the State between persons prohibited by subsection (a) of this section shall not constitute a legal or valid marriage within the State.Delaware marriage laws
Nearby States That Allow Cousin Marriages
Delaware is bordered by Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Of these states, only Pennsylvani doesn’t allow first cousin marriages.
You can get full details in these articles:
Looking for a destination wedding spot?
Do you live in a state or country where first cousin marriage is legal and you simply wanted to visit Delaware as a destination wedding spot?
Consider Maryland or New Jersey as alternative options on the east coast!
Looking to relocate?
Some first cousin couples move lock, stock, and barrel from Delaware to another state where their marriage will be legal.
Review your options and future plans carefully. You may wish to sit down with an attorney to consider the implications.
There are also other states in the U.S. that will not recognize legal cousin marriages from out of state.
Roman Catholic Marriages
Even if close cousins move to another state that allows their civil marriage, they will face separate hurdles if they want a wedding in a Roman Catholic church.
Historically, the Catholic Church hasn’t encouraged first cousin marriages. However, the church laws have been relaxed somewhat in recent years.
There is a process that first cousins need to go through with the hierarchy in order to get permission to marry in a church ceremony. This is known as a dispensation.
We explain in detail in our general article on first cousins (scroll down to the bottom).
What about second cousins?
Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage.
If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, check out our article that explains the second cousin relationship. It has diagrams that make it clear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does Delaware allow relatives to marry?
Delaware does not allow close relatives to marry.
More distant relatives such as second cousins are allowed to marry in the state.
Can you marry a sibling in Delaware?
Delaware does not allow siblings to marry. Half-siblings are also not allowed to marry in the state.
Is it legal to marry your second cousin in Delaware?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in Delaware.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Delaware may have more current or accurate information.
We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on other sites. Please check official sources.