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

Love can blossom in unexpected places, and sometimes, that place can be closer than you think. In the United States, laws regarding dating and marrying a cousin vary greatly depending on the state. This can lead to confusion for couples where one or both partners have relatives living in a different state. Today, we’ll be focusing on the specific case of Wisconsin.

If you’re wondering, “Is it illegal to date my cousin in Wisconsin?” the answer is simple: No, dating a cousin is legal in Wisconsin. However, there’s more to the story than a simple yes or no. Let’s delve deeper into the legalities, social aspects, and genetic considerations surrounding cousin dating.

Laws Regarding Cousin Dating in the United States

The legal landscape surrounding cousin dating is a patchwork across the US. Some states, like Alabama and Colorado, allow marriage between first cousins (children of siblings). Others, like New York and Illinois, strictly prohibit it. There’s a spectrum in between, with some states permitting marriage between first cousins only under specific circumstances, like if both partners are above a certain age (e.g., Indiana).

These variations in laws stem from a mix of historical, cultural, and scientific reasons. Traditionally, some communities practiced cousin marriage to maintain family wealth and social standing. However, scientific advancements revealed the increased risk of genetic disorders in children born to close relatives. This knowledge factored into legal restrictions in many states.

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It’s important to note that even in states where dating a cousin is legal, marrying one might not be. Some states have separate laws governing marriage and dating between close relatives.

Wisconsin Laws on Cousin Dating

Wisconsin falls on the side of allowing cousin relationships. There are no legal restrictions on dating or marrying a first cousin in the state. This is reflected in Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 769, which outlines marriage regulations. No mention is made of cousin relationships as an impediment to marriage.

While dating a cousin is legal in Wisconsin, it’s crucial to understand that this applies only to first cousins (children of siblings). Marrying or dating closer relatives, like aunts, uncles, nieces, or nephews, is not permitted under Wisconsin law.

Genetic Considerations of Cousin Dating

While legal in Wisconsin, dating a cousin comes with some important considerations. Offspring of cousin couples have a slightly increased risk of inheriting genetic disorders compared to children of unrelated parents. This is because cousins share a larger portion of their DNA than non-relatives.

The specific risk depends on the presence of any existing genetic conditions in the family lineage. If there’s a history of certain disorders, the risk for children of cousin couples can be significantly higher.

For couples in Wisconsin considering dating or marrying a cousin, especially if there’s a family history of genetic disorders, seeking genetic counseling is highly recommended. A genetic counselor can assess your individual risk factors and provide guidance on prenatal testing options.

Here are some resources for locating a genetic counselor in Wisconsin:

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Social and Cultural Aspects of Cousin Dating

In some parts of the world, it’s a common practice, even encouraged, to marry within the family. This can be due to factors like maintaining family lineage, cultural traditions, or limited social circles in isolated communities.

However, in Western cultures like the United States, cousin relationships are generally seen as off-limits due to the potential genetic risks and the taboo associated with romantic relationships between close relatives.

There can also be social and emotional challenges associated with cousin dating. Family dynamics might become complicated, and societal disapproval can create pressure on the couple.

Ultimately, the decision to date a cousin is a personal one. It’s important to weigh the legal situation, potential genetic risks, and any social or cultural considerations before entering such a relationship.


Wisconsin law permits dating and marrying a first cousin. However, it’s crucial to be aware of the increased risk of genetic disorders in offspring of cousin couples. If you’re considering a relationship with a cousin in Wisconsin, especially if there’s a family history of genetic conditions, genetic counseling is a vital step.

Remember, the legal aspects are just one piece of the puzzle. Social and cultural factors can also play a significant role in navigating a cousin relationship. Open communication with your partner, family, and potentially a therapist can help you navigate the complexities of such a relationship.

Additional Resources:


This blog is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with a healthcare professional or genetic counselor for personalized guidance regarding cousin dating and genetic risks.

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