Is It Illegal to Marry Your Cousin in Wisconsin? Here’s What the Law Says

The topic of cousin marriage often raises eyebrows. While some cultures encourage or have traditionally accepted marriage between cousins, others find it taboo or even illegal. In the United States, cousin marriage laws vary significantly from state to state. Understanding the legal implications of marrying your cousin in Wisconsin is crucial before taking that step.

Wisconsin’s Stance on First-Cousin Marriage

Wisconsin law generally prohibits marriages between first cousins. This means that individuals who share a common grandparent are not legally allowed to marry in the state. This aligns with the laws of many other US states.

Exceptions to Wisconsin’s Cousin Marriage Law

Wisconsin law does make a few exceptions to the general prohibition of first-cousin marriages:

  • Age Requirement: If the female partner is at least 55 years old, the marriage between first cousins is permitted.
  • Sterility Requirement: If either partner can provide an affidavit from a physician confirming permanent sterility, the marriage is allowed.

Health Considerations of Cousin Marriage

One of the primary concerns surrounding cousin marriage is the potential for an increased risk of genetic disorders in offspring. This is because closely related individuals are more likely to share recessive genes that can lead to health conditions.

Studies indicate a slightly higher risk of birth defects in children born to first-cousin couples compared to the general population. However, the absolute risk remains relatively low, and most children born to cousin couples are healthy.

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Social and Cultural Perceptions

Cousin marriage tends to be a polarizing topic in modern society. While some cultures and religions may view it favorably, others perceive marrying one’s cousin as taboo or morally unacceptable. It’s important to be aware of these differing perceptions and how they may impact individuals or families considering cousin marriage.

Historical Context of Cousin Marriage

Historically, cousin marriage was much more common across various cultures and time periods. Reasons for this included:

  • Maintaining property and wealth within families
  • Strengthening alliances between families or communities
  • Limited marriage pools in smaller or isolated populations

In recent times, with increased mobility and the breakdown of traditional social structures, cousin marriage has become less frequent, particularly in Western societies.

Alternative Options for Cousins in Wisconsin

If first cousins in Wisconsin are romantically involved but cannot legally marry in the state, they have a few options:

  • Relocate: Couples can consider moving to a state where first-cousin marriage is legal. It’s essential to fully research the laws of a prospective state before relocation.
  • Platonic Partnership: Cousins can decide to build a strong, committed relationship without the legal framework of marriage.
  • Seek Alternatives: Consider other committed relationships outside of the family or explore different ways of expressing love and commitment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Are there any other restrictions on marriage in Wisconsin? Yes, Wisconsin prohibits marriages between individuals who are closer than first cousins (e.g., siblings, parent-child, aunt/uncle-niece/nephew). Additionally, both individuals must be at least 18 years old, or 16 or 17 with parental consent.
  2. Why are some states more lenient regarding cousin marriage? The reasons vary, but may include cultural factors, historical traditions, and concerns about infringing on individual liberties.
  3. What are the potential benefits of cousin marriage? Some potential benefits may include greater family closeness, strong pre-existing bonds between partners, and cultural or religious adherence.
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The legality of cousin marriage in Wisconsin is subject to specific conditions. While generally prohibited, the law makes exceptions based on age and sterility. It’s essential for couples to understand these regulations before entering into a marriage. It’s equally important to consider potential health risks, social perceptions, and alternative options.

The decision to marry one’s cousin is a personal one with both legal and social complexities. Careful research, consideration of individual circumstances, and respect for diverse viewpoints are essential for navigating this topic.

Important Considerations and Resources

  • Legal Counsel: If you are considering cousin marriage, seeking advice from an attorney specializing in family law is strongly recommended. They can clarify the specific legalities applicable to your situation.
  • Genetic Counseling: Before marriage, first cousins may want to consult a genetic counselor to assess potential risks for their offspring and discuss any recommended testing.
  • National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC): Find a certified genetic counselor in your area through the NSGC website:


This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney for guidance on specific legal matters.

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