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13 April 2015

Law Commission starts work on review of law of marriage

The Law Commission has started the scoping phase of its review of the law of marriage. The Commission expects to publish a report at the conclusion of the scoping phase, which is expected to be at the end of 2015, reports Family Law Week.

The Government has asked the Law Commission to conduct a review of the law governing how and where people can marry in England and Wales.

The question underlying the review would be whether the current law, which has evolved over a long period of time, provides a fair and coherent legal framework for enabling people to marry. Does the law allow people to marry in a way which meets their needs and wishes while recognising the interests of society and the state in protecting the status of marriage?

The Law Commission has agreed to carry out an initial piece of work to prepare the way for the potential future reform of this important area of law. The Commission will conduct a preliminary study involving research of domestic and comparative law, and engagement with key stakeholders. The aim will be to identify and provide an initial analysis of the issues that need to be addressed in order to develop proposals for the reform of marriage law.

The Commission expects to complete this initial work by the end of 2015, when it will publish its findings. With Government it will then consider next steps and a decision will be taken about the ongoing involvement of the Law Commission.

As part of this project the Law Commission will not in any event consider:

  • Who can be married; so there will be no consideration of changing the age of consent or the restrictions on marrying within prohibited degrees.
  • The question of whether or not religious groups should be obliged to solemnize marriages of same sex couples which was recently decided by Parliament following wide public debate.
  • The rights or responsibilities which marriage imparts, such as the financial entitlements of surviving spouses or the consequences of divorce.