Is Dating Your Cousin Illegal in North Dakota? Here’s What the Law Says

Love can blossom in the most unexpected places, and sometimes, that unexpected place can be a little too close for comfort. Imagine growing up in a small town like Fargo, North Dakota, where everyone knows everyone. You might find yourself drawn to a childhood friend who turns out to be your cousin. This can be a confusing situation, especially when legal restrictions come into play.

Historically, cousin marriage was quite common in many cultures around the world. In fact, famous figures like Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin married their first cousins. However, due to the increased risk of genetic disorders in offspring, many countries and states have outlawed or discouraged the practice.

So, if you find yourself in a situation like this in North Dakota, here’s what you need to know: Dating and marrying your first cousin is illegal in the state.

Why is Cousin Marriage Illegal in North Dakota?

The primary reason cousin marriage is illegal in North Dakota, and many other places, is the increased risk of genetic disorders in children born from such unions. When closely related individuals reproduce, there’s a higher chance of inheriting recessive genetic conditions from both parents. These conditions may not be outwardly present in the parents but can be passed on to offspring, leading to serious health problems.

Here’s a deeper dive into the science behind the ban:

  • Recessive Genes: Genes come in pairs, and you inherit one from each parent. Recessive genes only cause a disorder when you inherit two copies, one from each parent. Since cousins share a significant portion of their genes, the chances of inheriting the same recessive gene from both parents increases in offspring of cousin marriages.
  • Increased Risk of Disorders: Conditions like cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease, and spinal muscular atrophy are more prevalent in children born from cousin marriages.
  • Medical Concerns: Studies have shown a higher rate of birth defects, infant mortality, and certain physical and intellectual disabilities in children of first-cousin marriages.

Beyond the health risks, there’s also the legal reasoning behind the ban. North Dakota, like many other states, has laws in place to protect public health and well-being. Cousin marriage bans are seen as a way to discourage a practice that could potentially lead to a higher burden on healthcare systems due to increased rates of genetic disorders.

Marrying a Cousin Outside North Dakota

It’s important to understand that not all states in the US have laws prohibiting cousin marriage. In fact, states like Alabama, California, and New York allow first cousins to marry. However, even if you travel to another state to get married, your union might not be recognized back in North Dakota.

Here’s what you need to consider if you’re contemplating marrying your cousin in another state:

  • Marriage Recognition Laws: Each state has its own laws regarding the recognition of marriages performed elsewhere. North Dakota specifically does not recognize marriages between first cousins that occur in other states.
  • Potential Legal Issues: If you marry your cousin out-of-state and return to North Dakota, your marriage might not be considered legally valid. This could lead to complications regarding property rights, inheritance, and spousal benefits.

Alternatives to Dating a Cousin

Finding yourself attracted to a cousin can be a complex situation. However, there are plenty of ways to find love and connection without breaking the law or jeopardizing your future children’s health.

Here are some alternatives to consider:

  • Expand Your Social Circle: Step outside your comfort zone and explore new hobbies or activities. Join clubs, volunteer organizations, or attend local events. This is a great way to meet new people with shared interests.
  • Online Dating Platforms: Online dating has become increasingly popular and can be a great way to connect with potential partners who share your values and lifestyle. Utilize these platforms responsibly and with clear communication about your location and interests.

Remember, finding a romantic partner takes t

ime and effort. Don’t feel pressured to settle for a relationship that could have negative consequences.


Love is a powerful emotion, but it’s important to navigate it responsibly. In North Dakota, dating and marrying your first cousin is illegal due to the potential health risks associated with offspring of such unions. The state prioritizes public health and discourages practices that could lead to a higher burden on healthcare systems.

There are many fulfilling ways to find love and companionship outside of a relationship with a close relative. Expand your social circle, explore new activities, and consider online dating platforms as ways to meet potential partners.

If you’re struggling with feelings for a cousin, here are some resources that can offer support and guidance:

  • A Therapist: A therapist can provide a safe and confidential space to explore your feelings and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Support Groups: Connecting with others who have faced similar situations can be helpful. Look for online or in-person support groups for people dealing with unconventional attractions.
  • Family Counseling: If your feelings for your cousin are causing tension within your family, consider seeking professional guidance from a family therapist.

Finding love that is healthy and sustainable takes time and effort. By understanding the legal and health implications, and exploring alternative avenues for connection, you can set yourself up for a fulfilling romantic life.

Remember, you are not alone. There are many resources available to help you navigate this situation and find the love and companionship you deserve.

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MBS Staff
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