Today (27 Feb) the minimum age you can get married or enter a civil partnership in England and Wales changes from being either 16 or 17 with parental consent to a fixed minimum age limit of 18. This is because of the coming into force of the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022.
As from today 16 and 17-year-olds cannot marry nor enter a civil partnership under any circumstances.
Marriage and Civil Partnership Act
The legislation goes further than just changing the age you can get married or enter a civil partnership as it extends the offence of forced marriage. This was the primary reasoning behind the legislation as it was considered that the implementation of a higher age limit would provide greater protection against forced marriages.
The Act makes it an offence to pursue any conduct for the purpose of causing a child to enter into marriage before they become 18. The offence does not depend on any violence, threats or coercion and it also does not depend on the conduct being carried out within England and Wales. So, the offence could be committed whilst someone is in another country.
However, the conduct must relate to causing the child to be married or enter a civil partnership in England and Wales. This includes ceremonies of marriage which are not legally binding which would cover traditional or community weddings. If you were found guilty of an offence you could face a fine or up to 7 years imprisonment.
This Act is not act retrospective and any marriages or civil partnerships of 16 or 17-year-olds that happened before today are still valid.
If you have any marriage related queries please do not hesitate to get in touch with our specialist Church Law team.