On 26 May 2022, the Faculty Office issued the following advice to clergy in the Church of England and Church in Wales on the implication of the changes introduced through The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022.
Minimum age for marriage to be raised to eighteen
Posted on 26 May 2022
The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 28th April 2022. The Act raises the minimum age at which couples in England & Wales can be married or enter into a Civil Partnership from 16 to 18.
Although 16 and 17 year-olds have always required parental consent to be married, the minimum age is being raised in an attempt to end coercive or abusive child marriages. Campaign groups have long been advocating for the age to be raised to make it harder for children to be pushed into marriages which they do not want and which may negatively affect their futures.
Although the Act has been passed, the Secretary of State is still required to make Regulations to bring the Act into force and to provide for transitional provisions covering any already planned marriages involving minors. These Regulations have not yet been laid before Parliament and, as yet, we have no information on the likely timescale.
The Act does not affect the recognition of any marriages which have already taken place between minors prior to the passing of the legislation.
The post by Russell Sandberg and Kathy Griffiths The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 raised the issue of weddings and civil partnership ceremonies that had already been booked, and what would happen to such prospective ceremonies which were lawful when they were booked but would not be so were the ceremony is conducted subsequently. They observed:
“[The Act] fails to appreciate how long-planned many marriage and civil partnership ceremonies are. Such ceremonies may be booked and planned a year or more in advance of them taking place”.
On this, the Faculty Office comments:
“Although the Act has been passed, the Secretary of State is still required to make Regulations to bring the Act into force and to provide for transitional provisions covering any already planned marriages involving minors”.
Section 5 Consequential Amendments empowers the Secretary of State to introduce such amendments; the issue is how an amendment relating to already planned marriages might be formulated. Such an amendment would be subject to the affirmative procedure, and a draft of the instrument would need to be laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.