It is illegal for first cousins to marry in Wisconsin with some exceptions.
If a woman is 55 or over, there is no impediment. If either partner is infertile, the couple may marry.
More distant cousin relationships are allowed to marry.
This article reviews the important aspects of cousin marriage within the Badger State.
What Do The Wisconsin Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?
The Wisconsin marriage laws set out a list of prohibited relationships.
We’ve taken excerpts of the relevant parts.
No marriage shall be contracted…between persons who are nearer of kin than 2nd cousins…whether the parties to the marriage are of the half or of the whole blood.Wisconsin marriage laws
However, the state has exceptions that allow some first cousins to marry. We’ll examine these in the next section.
Before we get there, let’s clarify relationships that are prohibited or permitted.
First cousins once removed are permitted
The child of your first cousin is your first cousin once removed.
A relationship between first cousins once removed is permitted to marry in the state.
If you need a more detailed explanation, check out our article on first cousins once removed.
Half or whole blood
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.
The bottom line is that half first cousins are not permitted (unless they can use the exceptions in the laws).
Exceptions To The Marriage Laws
Here is the clause that describes the exceptions.
…marriage may be contracted between first cousins where the female has attained the age of 55 years or where either party, at the time of application for a marriage license, submits an affidavit signed by a physician stating that either party is permanently sterile.Wisconsin marriage laws
If the female partner is aged fifty-five or older, then the couple can get married with no extra obstacles.
If either member of the couple can show they are infertile, then the marriage will also be permitted.
What’s behind these exceptions?
Other states have a moral objection to first cousin marriage, full stop.
Wisconsin is clearly basing its objections on the potential health risks to children. I won’t get into the pros and cons of this argument.
We hope that women who are post-menopause can easily get an affidavit from their doctor.
The burden of proof may more arduous for men. They may have to pay for a medical examination into their fertility.
Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In Wisconsin
Marriages between second cousins are allowed. 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 The Wisconsin Marriage Application Form Ask If You’re Related?
We reviewed the online application form for a marriage license from Brown County in 2022.
The form asks you whether you are related and to name the relationship. If you are first cousins, there is a section on age and fertility. This checks that you meet the exception requirements.
Do Nearby States Allow First Cousins To Marry?
Wisconsin is bordered by Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota. None of these states allow first cousins to marry.
The nearest alternatives are probably eastward. Check out 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 Wisconsin as a destination wedding spot?
Consider New York or Virginia as alternative destinations! Both states have beautiful wedding venues.
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 whether first cousins can marry in a Catholic church.
What about other cousins?
Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage.
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 uses diagrams to explain what second cousins are.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some quick answers to common questions.
Does Wisconsin allow relatives to marry?
Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin?
Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin?
Marriage between second cousins is legal in Wisconsin.
The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Wisconsin 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.