Other necessary qualifications to meet
In addition to insisting that marriage can only take place between two single people, the law insists on several other necessary criteria before two people can marry.
You must meet the age requirements:
• any single person can get married over the age of 18
• if you are aged between 16 and 18, you must obtain parental consent
• A marriage where one of the persons is under the age of 16 is absolutely void.
If someone marries between the ages of 16 and 18 without parental consent, their marriage is voidable (for the difference between ‘void’ and ‘voidable’ marriages.
Who must consent to a marriage of a child aged 16 to 18?
• The parents, or
• the guardian, or
• the court.
You are 17 years old and are desperate to marry the man of your choice. However, your parents thoroughly disapprove of him and refuse to consent to the marriage. You are so determined that you make a false statement to the superintendent registrar that you are 18 in order to get a license. Three weeks later you get married. Now your parents state that your marriage is void. What is your position? Your false statement has not invalidated your marriage . However, giving false information to the superintendent registrar of marriages is a serious criminal offense. The sensible alternative would have been to apply to court to ask its permission to marry. The court can dispense with parental consent and give its own consent to your marriage if you can persuade the magistrates that your parents, by withholding their consent, are acting unreasonably.
You are 17 and wish to get married. You live with your mother, who separated from your father when you were ten. She is quite agreeable to your proposed marriage. You received occasional visits from your father for the first couple of years after your parents split up, but he has been out of touch with you since. Do you need his permission too? The law on this issue is not clear; if your mother has sole parental responsibility for you only her consent would be necessary. If your father and mother have joint parental responsibility then you might have to seek your father’s permission. In any event, you could apply to a magistrates’ court to dispense with your father’s consent.
Intention to marry someone of the opposite sex
The law specifies that the parties must be male and female, ‘one man and one woman’. So there cannot be a legal marriage of a couple who are homosexual. Problems also arise with transsexuals who wish to marry. As far as the present law is concerned every person’s sex is determined at birth and as entered on their birth certificate. Thus even if a person has undergone a sex change, there cannot be a valid marriage in this country to someone of the opposite sex. The issue has even been taken to the European Court of Human Rights. It ruled that English law is entitled to use biological criteria for determining a person’s sex. ‘An attachment to the traditional concept of marriage’ was sufficient reason to maintain the present position, the court ruled. However, the court also stated that the law should be kept under review. Since then the English courts have also stated that a rigid deterministic approach should be looked at again in the light of increasing scientific knowledge and changing social mores.