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Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 comes into force 29/04/2022

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 has today received Royal Assent and became law. The Act increases the minimum age in England and Wales at which a person can get married, or enter into a civil partnership, to 18. This amends the legislation relating to the minimum age for marriage contained in the Marriage Act 1949 and the Civil Partnership Act 2004, both of which enabled a 16- or 17-year-old to marry with the consent of their parents. This also applies to religious or cultural marriages that are not registered with the local council. The law does not impact the validity of a marriage or civil partnership that took place prior to the legislation coming into effect.

The law aims to address the exploitation of the previous minimum age to force some young people into marriage, acting as a deterrent for those attempting to arrange a marriage or civil partnership for a child under the age of 18 and facilitating the empowerment of young people vulnerable to forced marriage.

According to the Act, a person commits an offence under the law of England and Wales if they carry out “any conduct for the purpose of causing a child to enter into marriage before the child’s eighteenth birthday”, including coercion, deception, violence, and threats. This covers attempts to make arrangements for the marriage or civil partnership of a child under the age of 18, whether or not the marriage or civil partnership takes place.

The offence is committed whether the intention is for a child to enter a marriage or civil partnership in England and Wales or the child is habitually resident in England and Wales (wherever the marriage or civil partnership is to take place), thus criminalising taking children abroad with the intention of carrying out a wedding or civil partnership.

Adults facilitating, or attempting to facilitate, the marriage or civil partnership of a child under the age of 18 could face up to seven years in prison, in addition to a fine. The offence of forced marriage is also covered in legislation under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

A marriage or civil partnership carried out in England and Wales involving at least one person under the age of 18, and/or involving a child under the age of 18 habitually resident in England and Wales, after the date the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 becomes law would be void (not legally valid) and could therefore be ended by way of annulment rather than divorce or dissolution which would mean that, in law, the marriage or civil partnership never existed.

For further information and advice on this issue, and other family law issues, please contact us for a free initial consultation on 01992 306 616 or 0207 956 2740 or email us.

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Manor Law Ltd, trading as Manor Law Family Solicitors, is a registered company in England and Wales - number 7977350, and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority - Hertford office SRA number 567506 and City of London office SRA number 568637. Copyright © Manor Law, 2016. All rights reserved.
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