How Old Do You Have to Be to Get Married in the UK?
The government has announced changes to marriage laws to protect children. The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 is due to come into effect on 27 February 2023. This legislation will make underage marriage an offence anyone facilitating the same will be considered an offender.
At the time of writing, the legal age to get married in England and Wales is 16 with the consent of anyone having parental responsibility over the relevant individual. If permission/consents are not given, permission can be sought from the court. Individuals above the age of 18 do not need permission from their parents to get married.
Since 16 and 17 years olds can marry (subject to parental consent), this legal loophole is often exploited to force young people into child marriage.
The minimum legal age limit is defined in the Marriage Act 1949. Although teenage marriages are not as common, many religious and cultural groups force young people to enter into arranged marriages.
Changes to the Minimum Marriage Age Limit
In June 2021, the Marriage and Civil Partnership Bill was introduced to put an end to child marriages. It was approved without opposition and received royal assent to become a law.
In England and Wales, the new legislation raises the legal age of marriage to 18 years. Now, a person has to be 18 or over to marry or enter into a civil partnership..
The minimum legal age limit also applies to religious and cultural marriages that are not usually registered with the local council.
On 27 February 2023, it will be a criminal offence to force teenagers under 18 into a child marriage. Anyone who facilitates child marriage can face a seven-year prison sentence or hefty fines. It also includes parents who take their children overseas to register a marriage.
To clarify, children will not be sentenced to seven-year jail time but rather their facilitators will. The new law however will not have any effect on the existing marriages before the new act was implemented.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Connaught Law and authors accept no responsibility for loss that may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Connaught Law. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Connaught Law
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