You can't marry - you're only 17!
Changes to marriage within England and Wales
The 6th April 2022 saw the biggest change for many years in relation to divorce law, process and procedure. Now, following in the footsteps of changes to divorce law, legislation has also changed the minimum age that you can consent to marriage, raising it from 16 years of age to 18 years of age in England and Wales.
The new legislation had its third reading in the House of Lords on Tuesday 26th April 2022 and has received Royal Assent. The age for legal marriage is now 18. The law will also relate to both cultural and religious marriages.
The new legislation, proposed by Pauline Latham Conservative MP for Mid Derbyshire, means that there would be penalties for those that facilitate the marriage of parties below the age of 18 years of age face up to 7 years in jail and face financial penalties. The child parties would not face penalties.
The new law will not affect the validity of any marriages or civil partnerships that took place before the legislation comes into force.
The reasoning behind the change in the law to close the current legal loop hole to protect child brides from being forced into marriages that they would otherwise not choose to entre. Prior to this new legislation, 16 and 17 year olds could have married with parental consent, but campaigners believe that this legal loophole has been exploited for a number of years and used as a means to coerce vulnerable teenagers into child marriages. Campaigners feel that this is a real chance to end forced child marriages.
Speaking on the topic of changing the legal age, Barnardo’s interim Co-CEO Michelle Lee-Izu, on 19 November 2021 stated:-
"We welcome proposals to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 in England and Wales. Closing the loophole that allows 16 and 17 year olds to marry with parental consent will help to protect children from being coerced into marriage, which can cause them to miss out on education, and even become victims of domestic abuse and other harm.
“Under current laws, the onus is on children to secure their own protection where coercion is involved, often by speaking out against their own families.
“Raising the minimum age of marriage to 18 brings it in line with compulsory education and helps to protect children from harm.”