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marriage law reform

What makes a marriage? The public are being consulted on this matter by The Law Commission who can recommend law reform.

The responses from the public and interested bodies will inform their work from now until 2020.  The public can comment until 31st October 2016[i].

It is interesting to see what the Law Commission consider might be reformed.  One proposal concerns the law governing weddings.  Marriage law is very old –  it dates back to the Marriage Act of 1836, some aspects are even older.  These laws define what makes a ceremony into a legal marriage.

Marriages are not generally currently permitted to take place outside a building, in the open.  It was considered important that the public could witness marriage ceremonies so that they could object to the marriage.  The Law Commission is asking whether marriages should now be permitted to take place outside. There are also fairly complicated rules about exactly where marriages can take place, which include, in some limited circumstances, on board a ship, or in a prison, and they are reviewing this too.

It is important that the building where you marry is appropriately registered otherwise it will not be a valid marriage.  This has been an issue at times, for example some religious marriages took place in mosques which (unknown to the bride and groom) had not been registered. This meant that the wedding could not make a legally recognized marriage.

Marriage brings important rights  including, critically, rights to financial support from a spouse.  Established places of religious worship will tell couples if they have the relevant registration and power to solemnise a marriage themselves, or whether, in addition to the religious ceremony, a couple needs to register a civil marriage.

Thinking about the popularity of marriage, recent figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest that the number of couples choosing to marry is falling, whereas the number of people choosing to live together is becoming more common, especially in younger age groups.

From a legal point of view, recognition of a relationship by marriage or civil partnership brings with it significant rights, duties and responsibilities that at present are not offered by living together. If you do need to register a religious marriage it is essential that you do so, as this brings with it access to the legal protection that comes with civil marriage.

If you have any questions or queries about this article or any of my other articles all of which are on our website www.hmbsolicitors.co.uk, please feel free to email me on [email protected]. If there are any particular issues that any readers would like to ask please feel free to email me.


Sarah Beskine

Specialist Family Lawyer and Mediator

[i] http://www.lawcom.gov.uk/13th-programme-potential-projects/

Sarah Beskine
About Sarah Beskine (44 Articles)
I offer help and advice as a specialist in the field of family law whether you are seeking help with divorce, separation or conflicts regarding children’s disputes.