It is currently illegal for first cousins to marry in Missouri.
First cousins once removed and other more distant relationships are allowed.
Missouri has recognized first cousin marriages conducted in other states where the union is legal.
This article reviews the important aspects of cousin marriage within the Show-Me State.
What Do The Missouri Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?
Missouri has a fairly short list of prohibited relationships when compared to some other states I’ve seen.
This is the list:
All marriages between parents and children, including grandparents and grandchildren of every degree, between brothers and sisters of the half as well as the whole blood, between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews, first cousinsMissouri marriage laws
I’ve bolded the relevant piece at the end.
Let’s quickly explain the bit about “half” and “whole blood”. When two siblings share the same parents, they are whole blood relatives i.e. “full siblings”.
When the siblings only share one parent, we call them half-siblings. This is also known as a half blood relationship.
You probably understand first cousins. If you’re not exactly clear, check out our article that shows exactly what first cousins are.
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, Missouri has a blanket ban within the state. There are no special exceptions.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Missouri
Relationships that are further out than first cousins are allowed.
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.
- what are first cousins once removed? (children of your first cousins)
- what are second cousins? (parents are first cousins)
- what are third cousins?
- what are fourth cousins?
What about half first cousins?
The laws mention full and half blood relationships in respect to brothers and sisters.
What does half blood mean in relation to cousins? Well, if your cousin’s parent is a half sibling of your parent, then you are half first cousins.
If that seems confusing, then we have a diagram in this section that answers “what is a half cousin”.
It’s not very clear whether this relationship is allowed in Missouri. You should consult an attorney about this.
Does Missouri Recognize First Cousin Marriages From Other States?
In 2014, ten same-sex couples who married outside Missouri went to court in Jackson County to seek recognition for their marriages.
One of the legal arguments of an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union was that Missouri recognizes first cousin marriage if they are legally performed outside the state.
Does The Missouri 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 Massachussets.
We reviewed the application form for a marriage license from Jackson 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?
Missouri is bordered by Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. Only one of these eight states allow first cousins to marry!
You can check out our article on first cousin marriage in Tennessee.
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 Missouri as a destination wedding spot?
Consider going further south to Tennessee as an alternative option in the region!
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. It has diagrams that make it clear.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does Missouri allow relatives to marry?
Missouri 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 Missouri?
Missouri 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 Missouri?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in Missouri.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Missouri may have more current or accurate information.
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