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Legal Age of Marriage Rises to 18

Legal Age of Marriage Rises to 18

Legal Age of Marriage Rises to 18

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 came into force on 27 February 2023, raising the legal age of marriage in England and Wales to 18.

The Act has been introduced to help protect vulnerable children from being forced into a marriage they do not want. These forced marriages can cause lasting and far-reaching damage on a child.

The previous archaic law under the Marriage Act 1949, allowed for children to marry between the ages of 16-18 if parental consent was obtained, this is despite them still legally being considered as children. Whilst the law originally intended to safeguard children against forced marriages, it has in reality, provided a channel for parental abuse.

Many have argued that the previously existing law has allowed young people to be the subject of domestic abuse, suffering life-long effects from forced marriages. This is an issue that the family courts are particularly alive to so the introduction of this new protective legislation will be welcomed.

Recognising a forced marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both parties do not or cannot consent to the marriage, with pressure and/or abuse being used to force the parties into the marriage. It is also when any step is taken to make someone marry before they turn 18, even if there is no pressure or abuse. It is classed as a form of domestic abuse.

In 2021, the government’s Forced Marriage Unit gave support in relation to 337 cases relating to forced marriage.

The new marriage law 

It is now illegal to cause a child under the age of 18 to enter a marriage in any circumstances, without the need to prove that any coercion was used (as was previously the case). The penalty faced by those who seek to force a child under the age of 18 to enter into a forced marriage is imprisonment for up to 7 years. The Act also applies if an adult attempts to remove someone from England or Wales, with the intention of coercing them into getting married abroad. Those minors entering into non-legally binding ceremonies are also afforded protection in accordance with the new legislation.

Speak to our Family Law experts

Should you wish to speak to someone regarding the above, or in relation to any other family law matter, then please contact a member of the family team at IBB Law on 03456 381 381.

Louisa Guest is a trainee in our divorce and family team and can be contacted on louisa.guest@ibblaw.co.uk.