We have identified some areas of law that our experience and discussion with stakeholders suggest may require reform. They could be potential projects for our 13th Programme of law reform. We would like to hear your views on these, and whether you think they should form part of our work in the next few years.
The primary statute governing weddings, or the solemnization of marriage, is the Marriage Act 1949. But the structure of marriage law, with its focus on regulating the buildings in which a marriage can take place, dates back to the Marriage Act 1836, and elements of the law are even older.
The Commission has conducted scoping work and in December 2015 we published our paper Getting Married. That paper, however, did not invite views on the conclusions we reached. In our scoping report, we identified the questions that would need to be addressed in a full project reviewing the law of marriage. We suggested that the objective of reform should be to legislate for greater choice within a simpler legal structure.
We have identified the following possible areas for reform:
- Where a marriage can take place – for example, outside (which is not currently generally permitted by the law), and in a wider range of locations. A change of this kind would also assist with the problem of some religious marriages being found to be invalid because they have taken place in a location permitted by religious or cultural practices but not currently permitted by law.
- Which groups or individuals should be able to solemnize marriages and how they should be regulated.
- The content of the ceremony, and what sort of ceremonies should be permitted.
- Notice and registration requirements for a marriage: currently these are restrictive, complex and old-fashioned.
- What makes a marriage valid: the current law does not provide sufficient clarity on the formalities required for a marriage to be valid; different rules for different types of marriage ceremony adds to the complexity.
- How far the rules governing the formation of a civil partnership should be aligned with those for the solemnization of a marriage.
What do you think?
We would be interested in your views on the impact of the issues that we have identified and whether the reform of marriage law should be considered a priority. For each of these issues we would like to hear whether you think a change in the law is required and whether it is suitable for further review by the Law Commission.