Is It Illegal to Date Your Cousin in New Jersey? Here’s What the Law Says

Love stories come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, sparks fly in the most unexpected places, even within the familiar confines of family. But what happens when those feelings develop for a cousin? In a world where societal norms and legal boundaries often intersect, questions arise. Is dating your cousin illegal? Are there repercussions for such a relationship?

This article dives deep into the legalities and considerations surrounding cousin dating in New Jersey, specifically. We’ll explore the state’s laws regarding marriage with a cousin, examine the gray areas around dating, and delve into the social and ethical factors to ponder.

Setting the Stage: New Jersey in Focus

New Jersey, the “Garden State,” is known for its diverse population, bustling cities like Newark and Jersey City, and stunning natural landscapes. But beyond its scenic beauty and cultural tapestry lies a legal framework that governs various aspects of life, including relationships. Understanding these legalities is crucial, especially when navigating the complexities of familial connections.

Can You Marry Your Cousin in New Jersey? Examining the Legality

Let’s address the most pressing question: Can you marry your cousin in New Jersey? The answer might surprise you. Unlike some states with stricter laws, New Jersey falls under the category of states that permit marriage between first cousins.

This legality is outlined in New Jersey’s Statute 37:1-1, which details prohibited marriages and civil unions. Notably, the statute excludes first cousins from the list of restricted relationships. Therefore, if you and your first cousin reside in New Jersey and wish to get married, you can do so without any legal hurdles.

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A Green Light for First Cousins

While New Jersey allows first-cousin marriage, it’s important to remember that this permission extends only to first cousins. Marriage with closer relatives, such as siblings, parents, aunts, or uncles, remains strictly prohibited by law.

There are several reasons behind these legal distinctions. Primarily, concerns regarding genetic disorders become more significant when marrying closer relatives. The shared gene pool increases the risk of passing on certain genetic conditions to offspring.

Restrictions on Closer Relatives

New Jersey’s legal framework prioritizes the well-being of potential children and upholds social norms regarding close familial relationships. Marriages between siblings or parents and children would raise significant ethical and potentially harmful biological consequences.

Dating vs. Marriage: Does the Law Apply Differently?

Now that we’ve established the legality of marriage between first cousins in New Jersey, a new question emerges: Does the law regarding dating a cousin differ? Here, we enter a bit of a legal gray area.

There are no specific laws in New Jersey that prohibit dating a cousin. Consensual romantic relationships between adults, regardless of familial ties, generally fall outside the realm of legal regulation. This essentially means that dating your first cousin in New Jersey is not illegal.

The Legal Gray Area of Dating a Cousin

However, the absence of a legal ban doesn’t equate to social acceptance or lack of potential complications. Dating a cousin can raise eyebrows within families and communities. Additionally, navigating the emotional complexities of such a relationship can be challenging.

It’s crucial to ensure both partners are consenting adults entering the relationship with full awareness of potential social and ethical concerns.

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Potential Concerns Regarding Cousin Dating

Beyond the legal aspects, dating a cousin comes with its own set of considerations. Here are some key points to ponder:

  • Increased Risk of Genetic Disorders: While the risk is lower than marrying a first cousin, there’s still a slightly higher chance of passing on certain genetic conditions to children if you decide to have them. Consulting with a genetic counselor can be a wise decision.
  • Social Stigma: Societal norms often frown upon cousin relationships. Be prepared to potentially face judgment or disapproval from family members, friends, or even strangers.
  • Family Dynamics: A romantic relationship between cousins can cause strain within family dynamics. Open communication and clear boundaries are essential to navigate this aspect.

Beyond Legality: Social and Ethical Considerations (Continued)

Entering a romantic relationship with a cousin goes beyond legal boundaries. Here, we delve into the social and ethical considerations that deserve careful evaluation.

Increased Risk of Genetic Disorders

As mentioned earlier, marrying a first cousin carries a slightly higher risk of passing on certain genetic conditions to offspring. This risk is due to the shared gene pool. While the chances are not as high as marrying a closer relative, it’s still a factor to consider, especially if you plan on having children. Consulting with a genetic counselor can provide valuable information and guidance. They can assess your family history, analyze potential risks, and offer informed advice.

Religious and Cultural Perspectives

Religion and cultural background can also play a significant role in shaping perspectives on cousin relationships. Some religions may have specific prohibitions or views on cousin marriages or relationships. It’s essential to be aware of and respect any religious or cultural beliefs that might influence your decision or that of your cousin. Open communication about these aspects is crucial.

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Navigating Family Dynamics

A romantic relationship between cousins can introduce a new layer of complexity to family dynamics. Jealousy, awkwardness, or disapproval from other family members are potential challenges. Clear communication and establishing boundaries are essential to navigate these situations. Consider involving trusted family members who can offer support and understanding.

Love, Family, and the Choices We Make

Ultimately, the decision to pursue a relationship with a cousin is a personal one. While New Jersey law permits marriage between first cousins, the choice involves a complex web of factors beyond legal constraints.

Here are some key takeaways to consider:

  • Love and attraction can blossom in unexpected places, but proceed with caution and awareness.
  • Genetic counseling can provide valuable insights into potential risks for offspring.
  • Be prepared for potential social stigma and navigate family dynamics with care.
  • Open communication and respect for individual choices are paramount.

Remember, a healthy relationship, regardless of the familial connection, is built on trust, respect, and open communication. If you decide to pursue a relationship with your cousin, ensure it’s based on genuine love and a deep understanding of the potential challenges.


Love stories come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes, those we find ourselves drawn to share a familiar bloodline. In New Jersey, the law permits marriage between first cousins. However, the decision to pursue such a relationship goes beyond legal boundaries.

This article has explored the legalities, social considerations, and ethical concerns surrounding cousin dating and marriage in New Jersey. Ultimately, the choice rests with you. Weigh the factors carefully, prioritize open communication, and navigate this path with respect for yourself, your cousin, and your family.

If you’re considering a relationship with your cousin, remember, love is a complex journey. Embrace it with honesty, awareness, and a willingness to face potential challenges.

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