I have a question about getting your parents' consent to marry.

Jun 2018
United States
Hello, everyone. I am not a Bahai. I have never been a member of any organized religion in my life, but I have been trying to learn about different religions for the past few years and recently have been investigating the Bahai Faith and reading a lot about it. I have lots of questions and I may post more later, but to start with I wanted to know about how my situation would apply to the Bahai marriage laws.

I don't really have a relationship with my father. I've never met him in person and he lives in a different state than me. We've exchanged letters a handful of times and I talked to him on the phone 3 or 4 times when I was younger. He stopped returning my calls years ago. I know he is still alive. If I were to become a Bahai and eventually marry, would I still be required to get his consent? I don't think I'll ever actually meet the man face to face so it's as if he's not really a parent at all.
Jun 2014
According to the UHJ, parental consent is only not needed in five cases:

"1. If the parent is dead.
2. If the parent has absented himself to the degree that he can be adjudged legally dead.
3. If the parent is certified insane and therefore legally incompetent to give consent.
4. If the parent is a Covenant-breaker.
5. It is possible under Bahá’í Law, in certain very rare cases, to recognize that a state of disownment exists. All such cases should be referred to the Universal House of Justice."
(Letter from the NSA)

Number 2 applies only if it proves to be impossible to find the parent in question.

So basically the course of action would be to consult with the UHJ to see if the degree of separation is a case of severe disownment, and barring that, consent would still be required.

We are told that the purpose of obtaining parental consent is "to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of children for those who have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator." (Letter from Shoghi Effendi)

Thus the purpose is to strengthen family bonds. So the hope would be that in asking consent, the broken relationship between parent and child could be mended through reestablished contact.

Although, if the relationship truly is so distant as to be completely unsalvagable, then there is no harm in asking, since the parent, not caring about whatsoever about the child, will consent out of apathy.
Jun 2018
United States
Thank you for responding

Thank you for responding. I have been reading about the Bahai Faith, but I haven't read any of the writings of Bahá'u'lláh yet. I have read some quotes of `Abdu'l-Bahá and so far like what I hear.
Jun 2018
January 3, 2011
All Local Spiritual Assemblies
Dear Bahá’í Friends,
The National Spiritual Assembly is pleased to share with you guidance that it has received from the Universal House of Justice concerning Bahá’í marriage law and the requirement of parental consent.
As you know, Bahá’u’lláh has clearly stated that the consent of all living parents is required for a Bahá’í marriage.
The intent of this requirement, as elucidated in a letter written on behalf
of Shoghi Effendi , is “to strengthen the social fabric, to knit closer the ties of the home, to place a certain gratitude and respect in the hearts of the children for those who have given them life and sent their souls out on the eternal journey towards their Creator.”
(From a letter dated October 25 , 1947)
Another letter written on behalf
of the Guardian, however, states that “
... in some cases it is permissible under the law of God either for the parents or for the children to disown the other, to deprive the other of certain rights, to sever family t
ies and to renounce their responsibilities ” and that “the law thereof is to be decided by the Universal House of Justice.”
(From a letter dated
November 15, 1940)
The Universal House of Justice, in a letter written on its behalf dated January 19, 2010
, has determined that it is timely to further clarify the range of circumstances in which a child may seek to be free of the requirement to obtain parental consent for marriage. It notes three areas that have been identified in this respect , as follows: First
, a child may be permitted to marry without seeking the consent of a man who denies
paternity and never assumed the responsibilities of parenthood. Marriage is also permitted without seeking the consent of a parent who abandoned the child from infancy. Furthermore,
a child conceived as a consequence of rape is not obliged to seek consent of the male offender.
Second, the consent of a parent is not required if he or she engaged, or was complicit, in the sexual or physical abuse of a child. The application of this decision will require careful investigation and wisdom on the part of the responsible Bahá’í institutions. While many forms of treatment of a child may be considered unfair or harsh, the institutions cannot diminish the standard for defining or assessing abuse, lest the parents be deprived too easily of their right to consent. Parents are liable to err and might be immoderate in the exercise of physical or verbal chastisement. In a permissive age, strict discipline or authoritarian behavior can be perceived as a form of abuse, even by some psychologists. Furthermore, if an individual finds it impossible to change the decision of a parent unwilling to give consent, he or she might be tempted to circumvent the requirement by exaggerating past behavior of the parent to make it seem like buse. Nevertheless, it is unjust to require a true victim of abuse to renew ties with,
or submit to the will of, an abuser. In order to deprive the parent of the right to consent, the Assembly must be satisfied that abuse has actually occurred. To this end, it may find it necessary to seek corroboration from reliable witnesses or the views of qualified professionals.

Finally, the right of the parent to consent can be forfeited if he or she seeks to use the
requirement for consent in a manner which subverts the spirit and intent of the law or
obstructs an individual’s right as a believer in Bahá’u’lláh to marry in accordance with the provisions of Bahá’í law. For example, ‘Abdu’l -Bahá states, “As for the question regarding marriage under the Law of God: first thou must choose one who is pleasing to thee, and then the matter is subject to the consent of father and mother.” Yet, in some instances, a parent has refused consent in order to deprive the child of the right to choose and to force the child to marry someone of the parent’s choosing. In other instances, a parent has denied consent in order to try to prevent the child from marrying anyone. A parent also violates the spirit of the marriage law if he or she uses the requirement for consent to exert unjustifiable control over factors that are unrelated to the prospective marriage. An example of this transgression is a parent who threatens to withhold consent as a means of manipulating the child’s behavior to create estrangement between the child and the other parent.
Another example is a parent who misuses the law to extract financial benefits or
other concessions from the child or the child’s other parent.
It is important for an Assembly to distinguish such violations of the spirit of the law from the reasons a parent might have for denying consent to marry in a particular instance. Parents have a wide degree of latitude to determine how they choose to exercise their responsibility.
As long as the spirit of the law is not violated they may refuse consent, and their conclusion is binding, even if it appears to the children or to others that they are being unreasonable or are acting out of prejudice. Ultimately, parents are responsible before God for their decision.
The House of Justice goes on to explain that when cases arise involving any of the circumstances discussed above, the Local Spiritual Assembly should ascertain all relevant facts and refer the matter for consideration by the National Assembly. Care should be exercised not to unduly invalidate the rights of the parents; yet, while children have the obligation to abide by the Bahá’í marriage law, they also have the right to be protected from the excesses imposed by parents that violate the spirit
and intent of that law. In addition, the National Assembly is advised that it need no longer refer such cases to the Universal House of Justice, unless particular situations arise for which no clear solution is apparent.
The National Spiritual Assembly realizes that dealing with parental consent issues can be challenging and greatly appreciate s your efforts in handling them. It hopes that this guidance will be helpful in future situations
. Further information on the topic can be found in Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies:
Developing Distinctive Bahá’í Communities
( chapter 12, pages 20-21, which will soon be updated to incorporate the clarifications
above). Assistance in handling such cases is also available from
the Office of Community Administration (at [email protected] or 847 733-3485).
With warm Bahá’í regards,
Kenneth E. Bowers

Personal Note; I had an issue with my father, my parents divorced after he hit my mother and she left. I saw him twice before 5th grade, never after that. My sister and I wrote to him through the years and he never replied. By the time I was in my 40's he had his son from another marriage ask me to send my mothers death certificate so he could annul their marriage and I rightly felt, annul us three children of his first marriage with our mother. I was given a waiver from Marriage / parental consent. It should be a case by case situation, I suggest if your certain of his whereabouts to send a letter which includes a postage paid return envelope and stock letter of consent for him to sign, with the note that the signed consent needs to be returned within 30 days, perhaps even have the sent so that you get a signed receipt for proof he received it. You may be surprised to see a signed consent form, if not then that should be proof he has removed himself from your life. I went through a LSA who consulted with the NSA. If it went further I didn't know.
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