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Forced Marriages And The New Legal Age For Marriage

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Posted on 20 Feb 2023

On 27th February 2023 the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 comes into force, which will raise the legal age to consent to marriage or to enter into a civil partnership from 16 to 18 in England and Wales. Whilst there is existing legislation in place to protect against forced marriage where violence or coercion is used, or a person lacks capacity, there has been considerable pressure to bring in additional safeguards and the new law is designed to better protect children against forced marriages and reduce the risk of exploitation.


Currently a person can marry at the age of 16 with parental consent. Once the new law is implemented, this will no longer be the case within England and Wales, even if they have parental consent.  Under this new Act, it will now be an offence to carry out any conduct causing a child to enter marriage or civil partnership, regardless and even if the marriage would not be legally binding within England and Wales.


The law in Northern Ireland and Scotland is not changing: you can still legally marry within these countries at the age of 16 with parental consent.  However, under the new legislation, if you are domiciled within England and Wales, and one of the parties to the marriage is under the age of 18, the marriage will not be legally recognised within England and Wales. Therefore, if a party to the ceremony treats England or Wales as their permanent home, whilst they would not be prohibited from marrying in Northern Ireland and Scotland (or elsewhere in another country), their marriage would be of no standing within their normal and permanent home.


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