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Marriage - Family Law

Marriage – You Now Have To Be 18

Marriage – You Now Have To Be 18

As from Monday 27 February 2023, a new law came into force, raising the legal age of marriage to 18.  This means that 16 and 17 year olds can no longer marry or enter a civil partnership in England and Wales, even with parental consent.

The change under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act states that it is now a crime to exploit vulnerable children by arranging for them to marry under circumstances, whether or not force was used.  The law will also cover non-legally binding “traditional” ceremonies which will still be viewed as marriages by the parties and their families.

Campaigners hailed the new legislation as a “huge leap forward” in the fighting back against the hidden abuse of forced marriages.  In an interview, Natasha Rattu, Director of Karma Nirvana Charity, which is a member of the Girls Not Brides coalition, exclaimed that she hoped there will be better identification and reporting of such cases.

She went on to hail the new law as a “huge victory for survivors” and hoped that it would provide a greater degree of protection to those at risk.

Looking at the statistics, the Government’s Forced Marriage Unit provided advice or support on 118 cases involving victims under the age of 18 in 2021.  The Ministry of Justice said the statistics showed forced marriage is more likely to impact girls than boys with 2018 figures for England and Wales showing that 28 boys married under the age of 18, compared with 119 girls.

The new legislation provides that if someone is found guilty of arranging a child marriage will now face a sentence of up to 7 years in prison.

Matt Clemence , Head of Family Law at Kerseys, welcomed the change, indicating that “those who act to manipulate children into marrying under age will now rightly face the full force of the law”.

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