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

Love can blossom in unexpected places, and sometimes, that unexpected place can be close to home. For some people in North Carolina, that might mean finding love with a cousin. But before you get swept away by a family connection, it’s important to understand the legalities of cousin relationships in the state. This article will delve into the laws surrounding cousin dating and marriage in North Carolina, explore the potential genetic risks, and offer guidance on navigating this complex situation.

North Carolina Law on Cousin Relationships

  • Marriage: North Carolina falls into the category of states that allow marriage between first cousins. This means that if you share a grandparent with your partner, you can legally get married in the state. There is no minimum age requirement or other restrictions placed on first-cousin marriages in North Carolina [1].
  • Double First Cousins: It’s important to note that North Carolina law does prohibit marriage between double first cousins. This refers to a situation where your parents are siblings (e.g., your father and his sister) and your partner’s parents are also siblings (e.g., their mother and her brother). Offspring of such unions share a much closer genetic link, increasing the potential for recessive genetic disorders in children [2].

Genetic Considerations of Cousin Relationships

  • Increased Risk: Children born to first-cousin couples have a slightly higher chance of inheriting certain genetic conditions compared to children of unrelated parents. This risk increases when both parents carry a recessive gene for the same condition [3].
  • Types of Conditions: Examples of recessive genetic disorders that might be more likely in offspring of first-cousin marriages include cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and some forms of deafness [4].
  • Severity of Risk: It’s crucial to understand that the absolute risk increase for these conditions is still relatively low. Studies suggest an approximate 2-3% increase in risk compared to the general population [5].
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Navigating a Cousin Relationship

  • Open Communication: If you’re considering pursuing a relationship with a cousin, open and honest communication is essential. Discuss your feelings, concerns, and any potential risks associated with a cousin relationship.
  • Genetic Counseling: Consider seeking genetic counseling, especially if you and your cousin are seriously considering marriage and having children. A genetic counselor can assess your individual and family history for potential genetic risks and provide informed guidance [6].
  • Family Considerations: Be prepared to navigate potential family dynamics. Not everyone in your family may be comfortable with a cousin relationship. Open communication and respecting boundaries can help manage these situations.

Cultural and Religious Perspectives

  • Variations Around the World: Cousin marriage is legal and even encouraged in some cultures and religions around the world. It’s important to be aware of your own cultural background and how it might influence your perspective on cousin relationships [7].
  • Religious Views: Certain religious denominations may have specific teachings regarding cousin relationships. Understanding your own religious beliefs and how they might intersect with your situation can be helpful.

Alternative Relationship Options

  • Dating Outside the Family: If the legal and genetic considerations of a cousin relationship give you pause, remember that there’s a whole world of potential partners out there. Explore dating opportunities outside your family circle.
  • Maintaining Strong Family Bonds: Even if you choose not to pursue a romantic relationship with your cousin, you can still maintain a strong and supportive family bond.


The decision of whether or not to date or marry a cousin in North Carolina is a personal one. By understanding the legalities, potential genetic risks, and navigating the social and familial aspects, you can make an informed choice. Remember, there’s no shame in seeking professional guidance from a genetic counselor or therapist to help you navigate this complex situation.

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Additional Resources * North Carolina Bar Association: * March of Dimes: * National Society of Genetic Counselors:

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