The introduction of the now obsolete Ages of Marriage Act 1929 raised the minimum age of marriage in the UK to 16, and it remains possible to marry in England or Wales at age 16 or 17, provided that the child’s parent or guardian consents to the marriage. This has given rise to concerns that 16 and 17 year olds may be coerced or forced into child marriage by their parents or guardians. There is also no legal provision in England and Wales to prevent religious or customary marriages from taking place at any age.
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill has been introduced in an attempt to remove these exemptions, meaning that if the Bill passes into law, it would no longer be possible to marry under the age of 18, even with the consent of the child’s parent or guardian. The Bill would also make it a criminal offence to enter into a marriage under the age of 18 or to enter into ‘any conduct causing’ a marriage of an individual under the age of 18, including religious or customary marriages. Any marriage entered into where either party was under 18 would automatically be void.
The Bill reached its third reading in the House of Commons on 25 February 2022 with no amendments and is expected to be approved and sent to the House of Lords. It is hoped that this new law will go some way to protecting young and sometimes vulnerable children who are at risk of being pressurised into marriage.
Ellisons provide a wide range of Family Law services to guide you through disputes in a sensitive but effective way to ensure the most appropriate outcome. Contact the Family Law team to arrange an appointment at any of our office locations, or virtually.