It is currently illegal for first cousins to marry in Michigan.
First cousins once removed and other more distant relationships are allowed.
Michigan has historically recognized first cousin marriages conducted outside the state.
This article reviews the important aspects of cousin marriage within the Wolverine State.
What Do The Michigan Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?
The Michigan legislature website was timing out when I tried to look up their exact marriage laws in 2022.
So, these are the prohibitions from a more general law website.
marriage between ancestors or descendants, brother and sister (blood or affinity), aunt and nephew, uncle and niece, first cousins.Michigan marriage laws
If you’re wondering what affinity means, it refers to being related by marriage. But never mind that.
What you’re really interested in is the last item on the prohibited list: first cousins.
If you’re unsure about the exact definition of this relationship, check out our article on first cousins.
Are there any exceptions to the laws?
Some other states generally don’t allow first cousin marriage but have some allowances based on age or other criteria.
In contrast, Michigan has a blanket ban within the state. There are no special exceptions.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Michigan
First cousins are the only type of cousins that are stipulated in the laws. This means that other types of cousins are allowed to marry.
For example, marriages between first cousins once removed are permitted.
Of course, more distant cousins are also permitted. If you’re not sure what the difference is between the various relationships, the links below will give you diagrams and clear explanations.
- first cousins once removed (children of your first cousins)
- second cousins explained
- third cousins explained
- fourth cousins explained
Does Michigan Recognize Out-Of-State First Cousin Marriages?
Martin Ottenheimer’s book on the history of cousin marriage in the United States notes that the Michigan Attorney General recognized first cousin marriages conducted outside the state way back in 1939.
That may seem a little too long ago to be comfortable in your plans. However, there have been more recent legal decisions than this.
As in other states, these have tended to be around immigration cases from countries where first cousin marriages are a more common part of the culture.
1980: Matter of Balodis
This case involved overturning a decision by the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) that denied immigration status to the wife of a Michigan resident.
The denial was based on the fact that first cousin marriages are illegal in Michigan.
However, the Balodis marriage had occurred outside of Michigan.
When the Regional Commissioner examined the appeal, he overturned the case in favor of the petitioner. This is what the interim decision had to say:
Although Michigan law prohibits marriage between first cousins the prohibition does not apply to a marriage solemnized elsewhere.
A marriage which is valid where contracted is recognized as valid in the state of Michigan despite the fact that it would be invalid if contracted in Michigan.Interim Decision, Balodis Case (link is to a PDF)
Does The Michigan 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 Hawaii.
We reviewed the online form for Wayne County in 2022. There is no such question present.
I point this out because I can see how people could get married without being aware of the impediment. However, when you sign the form you are affirming that there is no impediment to your marriage.
Do Nearby States Allow First Cousins To Marry?
Michigan is bordered by Indiana and Ohio. Neither of these states allow first cousins to marry.
The nearest options are probably further east to Maryland and Virginia. You can find more 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 Michigan as a destination wedding spot?
Consider these other states as alternative options! They are both beautiful destinations.
Looking to relocate?
Some first cousins choose to relocate permanently to a 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 all the implications.
Some states in the U.S. will not recognize legal marriages from other states.
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.
You can read a more detailed explanation here on how first cousins can have a Catholic wedding.
What about other cousins?
Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage. This is because they are beyond the fourth degree of relationship.
We suggest that you mention to your priest that you are second cousins before the service. This means he won’t get uneasy if he hears mention of “cousins” from other people.
If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, check out our article that explains the second cousin relationship.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does Michigan allow relatives to marry?
Michigan 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 Michigan?
Michigan 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 Michigan?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in Michigan.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Michigan 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.