May 27, 2022

Legal age for marriage change in England and Wales

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022. This Act increases the minimum age of marriage in England and Wales from 16 years to 18 years. Under the existing law people can enter into a marriage at the age of 18, or at 16–17 years with parental or judicial consent.

This change was recommended in 2016 that there should be ‘no legal way for anyone to marry before they turn 18, even if there is parental consent’.

The Act also makes it an offence for a person to cause a child under the age of 18 to enter into a religious or civil ceremony of marriage before the child’s 18th birthday, even if this marriage would not be legally binding.

The The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022. The Act is not retrospective so it will not affect the validity of any marriages or civil partnerships entered into before the legislation comes into force and  applies to England and Wales only. Regulations will bring the legislation into force in due course.

What about marriages abroad? In the explanatory notes to the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill it says:

the anticipated effect on the common law of the proposed change to the minimum age of marriage would mean that marriages of under 18s, which take place abroad, would not be legally recognised in England and Wales if either party is domiciled in England and Wales.

This change unlikely to be of relevance to most given the average age of marriage for women is 31.5 and men 33.4(according to Office of National Statistics) however it will assist those dealing with child protection and forced marriage.

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