UK Law and Child Marriages
Young people in the UK are allowed to marry without requiring the consent of a parent, guardian or court when they reach the age of 18 years. Under the age of 18, and as long as the child is 16 or 17, ‘parental’ consent is required. However, there can often be questions as to who is legally entitled to give that consent, especially if a child has grown up with step-parents, grandparents or other carers.
Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights allows men and women to marry as long as they are of ‘marriageable age.’ The fact that the UK does not allow children to marry under the age of 16 is not an infringement on their human rights, because the Article allows member states to provide minimum ages for marriage.
Obtaining ConsentThe law in relation to marriage has changed substantially over the centuries but the Children Act 1989 now, in effect, provides that consent can be given by a person who has had day-to-day care of the child who wants to marry. Therefore, consent must be given by the following:
- Each parent who has Parental Responsibility and/or each Guardian Of A Child. If an unmarried father does not have parental responsibility for his child who wants to get married, he will not be able to provide consent.
- If the child is subject to a Residence Order, the consent of the person(s) with whom the child is living is required.
- If the child is subject to a care order, the local authority must additionally consent to the marriage as well as any parents or guardians.
- Similarly, if the child is a ward of court, the court’s consent is required as well as any parents or guardians or other persons as listed above.