Proposed changes to be made to the legal age for marriage in England and Wales
Posted on 17th June 2021
In recent days, the government has backed calls to raise the legal age of marriage. Our family solicitors weigh in on the changes.
In recent days, the government has pledge its support and commitment to the raising of the minimum legal age for marriage to 18. This comes after a private member's bill was raised by Sajid Javid, which claimed that the changes were needed to prevent cases described as ‘child abuse’.
Our expert family solicitors discuss the potential changes below.
What has the law stated up until this point?
The legal age for marriage has certainly seen a few changes over the years. Here is a brief history of where marriage has stood legally regarding the minimum age:
The Marriage Act of 1753, as it was initially introduced, set out that no marriage of a person under the age of 21 in England and Wales was valid without the consent of the parents or guardians.
In 1929, this age limit was lowered from 21 to 16 years of age, with the consent of parents/guardians.
Twenty years later, in 1949, The Marriage Act was introduced. This act confirmed that any marriage where either of the parties was under 16 years of age was void, and that any party under the age of 21 would need consent. This is how it has remained until this point.
What would the new changes entail?
However, it has now been reported widely in the media that the former Chancellor, Sajid Javid is introducing a Private Member’s Bill, which is likely to be backed by the Government, raising the age of marriage with consent to 18 years, as the general view is that marriage at a younger age is ‘child abuse’.
The main concern arises around 16 and 17-year-olds who are forced into marriage by their parents, often teenage girls married off to much older men who are unknown to them. Although some protection is offered already in relation to forced marriage, this course of action means the child needing to speak out against their own family and taking action against them, which many are understandably too scared to do.
The view of many charities is that the child is often coerced into marriage rather than being physically forced, and that these marriages contribute to sexual violence and domestic abuse.
The Office of National Statistics reported that in 2017, 43 teenage boys and 140 teenage girls were married with their parents' consent, however this does not reflect the marriages which take place in accordance with religion and custom only, which are not recognised as legal in England and Wales.
Many will agree that children are not ready for what marriage entails – indeed many adults never are - and this also goes against the current legal requirement for all children to remain in education until they reach 18 years. Our expert family solicitors have no doubt the proposed Bill will invite debate, however, it is hoped that children will be protected and will not be forced to grow up too soon.
How can MG Legal help with my family law matter?
Whether you issue is related to marriage, divorce, changing of names, child contact issues, or financial arrangements, our family law solicitors are here to help. They are well versed with all changes and potential updates to family law, such as the potential raising of the marriage age, and are ready to implement them to cases as soon as they come into action.
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