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Increase in the Minimum Age to enter Marriage or a Civil Partnership

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Changes to the laws on Marriage and Civil Partnerships are due to be implemented in England and Wales on Monday 27 February 2023. After receiving Royal Assent in April 2022, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 ensures that 16- to 17-year-olds are no longer able to marry or enter civil partnerships.

This is part of a wider process to combat forced marriages, as previously those aged 16 or 17 could marry or enter a civil partnership with parental or judicial consent. Legally, forced marriage is only applicable if a person uses coercion to cause someone to marry. In addition, someone who cannot give consent to marry under the Mental Capacity Act also cannot enter marriage or a civil partnership.

Consequently, this new law means that it would now be an offence to cause someone below the age of 18 to marry, without needing to find evidence of coercion. Ceremonies that are not otherwise legally binding, in community or traditional settings, are also included in this law.

Furthermore, the new Act is not retrospective, so it will not alter the validity of marriages or civil partnerships that were entered into before 27th February 2022. However, the new Act does apply to those marriages and civil partnerships obtained outside of the UK, meaning that marriages or civil partnerships involving a child under the age of 18 will not be viewed as legally binding if either party lives in England and Wales.

This reform coincides with wider changes to the law on marriage, which permitted outdoor ceremonies of marriage and civil partnerships at licensed venues to be made legally binding permanently in the summer of 2022 following their temporary introduction during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Please do not hesitate to contact Paralegal, Katie Banks, on / 01562 820181 should you wish to discuss the same.