Legislation introduced on 26 February 2023 has changed the age of marriage and civil partnership in England and Wales from 16 to 18 in a move to protect children from forced marriage.
This change prevents 16- and 17-year-olds from entering civil partnerships or marriages under any circumstances. Previously, the marriage age in the UK was 16, meaning 16 and 17 year olds were able to get married or enter civil partnerships as long as they had parental or judicial consent, however, under the new legislation in force from 26th February 2023, this is no longer the case.
However, it is important to note that marriages or civil partnerships that were entered into by those under the minimum age of 18 before this legislation came into play will not be affected by the new marriage age in the UK.
The minimum marriage age in the UK has been changed in an attempt to end forced child marriages and raising the age means that it will become harder for children to be unwillingly forced into marriages which may cause significantly negative impacts on their futures.
Previously forced marriage has only been considered an offence if coercion has been used such as threats that have caused a person to enter into a marriage or if the person lacked the capacity to consent to a marriage which is outlined in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
The new act has expanded this and has now made it an offence in all circumstances to do anything that is intended to cause a child to marry before they are 18 years old. Therefore, it is now an offence to cause a child under the minimum age of 18 to enter a marriage under any circumstances and the need to prove that coercion was used has now been removed. The forced marriage offence will still include ceremonies of marriage which are not legally binding.
Here at Freeman Jones, our specialist family law solicitors are able to provide you with expert independent legal advice with a view to assisting you with your family law requirements including advice surrounding the marriage age in the UK. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us. Or click if you would like more information about our family law solicitors Chester team.