Minimum marriage age raised from 16 to 18 in England and Wales

27th February 2023


The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Minimum Age) Act 2022 has come into force today, (27th February 2023). Effectively from today, 16 and 17 year-olds can no longer enter a marriage or civil partnership, regardless of parental consent.  

This amendment to the previous legislation means that it will now be a criminal offence to cause a child under the age of 18 to marry. This will be the case, without the previous reliance on the use of coercion to force such a marriage/civil partnership. This includes non-legally binding ‘traditional’ ceremonies, which would still be viewed as marriages by the parties and their families. The scope of imprisonment for committing such an offence will be set as a maximum at seven years. [1]

This is a significant step towards providing better protection to children across England and Wales from abuse. The previous legislation, which allowed 16 and 17 year-old children to marry with parental consent, led to cases of forced marriage and therefore this is a welcome change and ultimately a vital step towards ensuring that children are afforded adequate protection from exploitation and harm.

Statistics have demonstrated that young girls were more likely to fall victim to forced marriage, and there was a significant correlation found between this and rates of domestic abuse towards young girls, with them suffering both physical and mental harm as a result. In addition, victims of forced marriage were much more likely to leave education early and have significantly lowered career prospects as a result.[2]

The effects of forced marriages are immensely damaging, with victims suffering trauma that has ultimately destroyed young lives, and it is (to put it quite bluntly) ‘about time’, that the law took steps to begin to mitigate the risks of this form of abuse prevailing in our modern-day society.

Should you need any advice in relation to divorce, domestic abuse or other family law related matters, BHP Law’s Family team can support you.

We offer a free 30-minutes initial consultation to provide advice and discuss how we can best support you to navigate the issues that you may be experiencing.



[1] GOV.UK Press Release 27 February 2023 from The Ministry of Justice and Dominic Raab ‘Legal age of marriage in England and Wales rises to 18’.,form%20of%20coercion%20was%20used.

[2] Economic Impacts Of Child Marriage: (Conference Edition) June 2017 Global Synthesis Report


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