Legal age to marry will increase to 18 years
5 May 2022 by Charlotte Knappett
On the 28 April 2022 The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill received Royal Assent. It will increase the minimum age at which a person can marry or enter into a civil partnership in England and Wales from 16 to 18 years.
Once a bill has completed all the parliamentary stages in both Houses, it is then ready to receive Royal Assent. Royal Assent means that a Parliamentary Bill has been formally made into an Act of Parliament and the law has been approved to come into effect. It is likely that this law will come into effect shortly.
It has previously been possible for 16 and 17 year olds to marry if they have their parents’ consent. This has been the case since for the over 90 years, as a result of the Ages of Marriage Act 1929.
The purpose and intent of the new law is to protect vulnerable children from child marriage and exploitation. The new law means that a person cannot marry until they are 18 years.
The new law seeks to punish those responsible, not the child, for any child marriage. It is therefore an offence for a person to cause a child under the age of 18 to enter into a marriage before the child’s 18th birthday.
The new law also means it will also be an offence to marry a child. This applies to both registered marriages and unregistered ceremonial events. Those who facilitate marriage for anyone under the age of 18 could also be prosecuted and face up to seven years in prison as well as a fine.
The offence will also apply to a marriage whether or not it is carried out in England and Wales. This means that it will be an offence to remove a child from the country with the intention of marriage in another country.
The new law does not affect marriages or civil partnerships that took place prior to this legislation coming into force. Further it does not apply in Northern Ireland or Scotland, where people can still marry at 16.
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