On Monday 27 February 2023, the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 came into effect. From that date, the age at which someone can marry or enter into a civil partnership in England and Wales has increased from 16 to 18. Before 27 February 2023, a 16 or 17-year-old could marry or enter into a civil partnership with the permission of their parents.
One of the main objectives of the new legislation was to stop forced marriages and civil partnerships involving those under the age of 18.
Under the new legislation, any marriage which takes place outside England and Wales, where one or both of the parties is under the age of 18, will not be legally recognised here.
The number of 16 and 17 year olds who marry or enter a civil partnership in England and Wales is low. In 2019, the Office for National Statistics reported that there had been just 125 marriages involving people under the age of 18. However, worldwide it is estimated that some 12 million girls are married before the age of 18.
The number of couples who cohabit, rather than marrying or entering into a civil partnership, continues to increase. In 2021, the proportion of people cohabiting increased to 24.3%. Few couples think about putting in place a cohabitation agreement when they start cohabiting. However the law continues to provide only very limited financial claims if the cohabitation breaks down. Any couple who are thinking about living together, rather than intending to marry or enter into a civil partnership, should consider putting in place a cohabitation agreement. There is no legal concept of a ‘common law marriage’, which can come as a shock to someone who has been living with their partner for decades, and discovers how limited their financial claims are.
If you have any questions about this topic, please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org