New law raises minimum marriage age to 18 in England and Wales

Couple proposing - Minimum marriage age

A new law will be introduced this week changing the minimum marriage age to 18. Previously, minors aged 16 or 17 could get married, as long as they had parental consent.

The new law will apply to cultural or religious marriages that are not registered with the local council.

Under the new rules, children will not face penalties. Adults who facilitate their marriage could face up to seven years in prison and a fine. The offence would apply to a marriage “whether or not it is carried out in England and Wales”. It would still be an offence to take children out of the country with the intention of carrying out a wedding.

The new law, raising the minimum marriage age, will not affect the validity of any marriages or civil partnerships that have taken place before the legislation comes into force.

It does not apply to Northern Ireland and Scotland, where the minimum age will stay at 16. In Northern Ireland you still need parental consent to marry at 16, but in Scotland you do not.

The new law will be introduced to protect young people who are at risk. The threat of prison should act as a deterrent for those trying to arrange a marriage for under-18s.

Keith Bull is the Head of Family Law Department at Bromleys Solicitors with over 30 years’ experience in family law matters and can be contacted on 0161 330 6812