Can First Cousins Marry In North Dakota? (Explained)

It is currently illegal for first cousins to marry in North Dakota.

First cousins once removed and other more distant relationships are allowed.

North Dakota does not recognize first cousin marriages conducted in other states where the union is legal.

This article reviews the important aspects of cousin marriage within the Rough Rider State.

What Do The North Dakota Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?

The North Dakota marriage laws have a short statement on first cousins. Here it is:

Marriage between first cousins of the half as well as the whole blood.

North Dakota marriage laws

You probably understand the first cousin relationship. If you’re not exactly clear, check out our article that explains first cousins.

Half first cousins

Let’s quickly explain half and whole blood. When two siblings share the same parents, they are whole blood relatives. We also call them full siblings.

Their children are first cousins of the whole blood.

When the siblings only share one parent, we call them half-siblings. This is also known as a half blood relationship.

Their children are first cousins of the half blood.

Basically, if your cousin’s parent is a half sibling of your parent, then you are half first cousins.

If that seems confusing, then it’s much easier to understand with a picture. We’ve got a diagram of the half cousin relationship here.

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, North Dakota has a blanket ban within the state. There are no special exceptions.

Marrying in North Dakota

Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In North Dakota

Relationships that are further out than first cousins are allowed.

This means that first cousins once removed can marry in the state.

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.

Does North Dakota Recognize First Cousin Marriages From Other States

Some states where first cousin marriage is illegal will recognize such marriages if they were conducted legally outside the state.

However, North Dakota does not recognize out-of-state marriages if they are illegal under the state’s own laws.

Below is the relevant section in the law. That “Except” at the start is the key. It’s saying that the state recognizes out-of-state marriages unless they are prohibited within the North Dakota laws.

Except when residents of this state contract a marriage in another state which is prohibited under the laws of this state, all marriages contracted outside this state, which are valid according to the laws of the state or country where contracted, are valid in this state.

North Dakota marriage laws

Does The North Dakota Marriage Application Form Ask If You’re Related?

We reviewed the application form for a marriage license from Cass County in 2022.

The form has a yes/no question asking if you are related to your fiance.

If you are a second cousin, you will still answer yes to this question.

Unlike the forms we’ve seen in some other states, you don’t clarify the exact nature of the relationship on this particular version of the application. That may not be the case in other counties.

Be prepared to be asked to clarify by the official who is issuing the marriage license. Don’t worry! Just explain clearly how you are more distant than a first cousin relationship.

Do Nearby States Allow First Cousins To Marry?

North Dakota is bordered by Minnesota, Montana, and South Dakota. None of these states allow first cousins to marry.

The nearest option is probably the Centennial State. You can check out our article on first cousins marrying in Colorado.

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 North Dakota as a destination wedding spot?

Consider Colorado as an alternative option! There are many beautiful venues in the state.

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 how second cousins work. It has diagrams that make it clear.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some quick answers to common questions.

Does North Dakota allow relatives to marry?

North Dakota 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 North Dakota?

North Dakota 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 North Dakota?

Marriage between second cousins is legal in North Dakota.


The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. North Dakota 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.

Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.