Are 16 year olds too young to Marry?


In England you can currently marry at the age of 16, with your parent’s consent. Jennifer Herbert asks is it too young to marry? 

Currently in England both men and women, or shall we say girls and boys, can marry at the age of 16, with their parent’s consent. Many will say this is far too young to marry with or without the consent of a parent. Quite often, young people who marry at the age of 16 miss out on educational opportunities, particularly where they reach the age of 16 before finishing secondary education, in those cases some do not even finish the school year and take their GCSE’s.

There is a private members Bill currently going through parliament to raise the age of consent to marry or enter into a civil partnership, for both men and women, to 18 years old.

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Bill received its second reading in the House of Lords on Friday 21st October 2016. At this stage there will have been a general debate on all aspects of the Bill. The date for the next stage, the committee stage, at which there will be a line by line reading and examination of the Bill, is yet to be announced.

This Bill was introduced to parliament by Baroness Tonge and concentrates on the problems in marriages of young persons between the ages of 16-18. The Bill also seeks to create an offence of causing a person under the age of 18 to enter into a marriage or civil partnership, which is in line with The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 which made forced marriage a criminal offence.

It is hoped that the Bill will assist in preventing forced marriages, particularly in circumstances where young people marry between the ages of 16-18 with their parent’s encouragement and, so as to not disappoint their family, these young people go along with the marriage consensually regardless of their own wishes/feelings. If this Bill is passed, these marriages will be no more.

It is not known why but some countries have a distinction in age for men and women with the common trend of the woman being able to marry much younger than the man, although parental consent is still usually required. For example, in Uruguay a man can marry at the age of 14 but a woman can marry at the age of 12 and in Zimbabwe; Japan; Sri Lanka and South Korea a man can marry at the age of 18 but a woman can marry at the age of 16.

In the summer of last year Spain increased its minimum age to marry to 16 years old from just 14 years old to bring the country in line with other European countries. In England there is no distinction between genders but anyone wanting to marry between the age of 16-18 must have parental consent. Whereas, in Scotland any person can marry from the age of 16 with or without the consent of their parents.

MORE INFORMATION If you would like more information please contact our Family Law Department on 01708 229444  (Upminster or Hornchurch), 01277 211755 (Brentwood office) or 01702 418433 (Leigh-on-Sea).  We offer a free initial 30 minute consultation for all new family law enquiries. You can book your free initial family consultation using our online booking form or by calling your local office. This half hour appointment will allow you to explain the situation with an expert lawyer and discuss the best steps to minimise delays. 
This article was written by Jennifer Herbert, a family lawyer based at Pinney Talfourd Solicitors’ Upminster office. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as at October 2016.


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