Marriage of a Child Looked After
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTERThis procedure applies to 16 and 17 year olds who are Looked After and who wish to marry.
1. Necessary Consents
A marriage between two persons one of whom is under 16 is void.
For a young person who is 16 or 17 to marry, the written consent of the parents is required. If the young person is the subject of a Care Order, the consent of the local authority is required in addition to the parents.
Where the necessary consents are not forthcoming, an application can be made to the Court for consent to the marriage in substitution for parental consent.
2. Where a Care Order Exists
2.1 The Local Authority's Consent
If a young person of 16 or 17 who is the subject of a Care Order expresses a wish to marry, this should be considered at the Looked After Review.
The Review may recommend that the young person's wishes should be supported and consent should be granted. The Review should also consider at this stage whether and when it may be appropriate to seek a discharge of the Care Order. The social worker should obtain legal advice as to the appropriate steps to be followed.
It will always be necessary to seek the parents' written consent to the marriage.
The social worker should discuss the issue with their Team Manager and form a view about the acceptability of the marriage. and seek the views of the Head of Service in giving consent to the marriage. To do so, the social worker in conjunction with the young person and the Personal Adviser should prepare a written report setting out the circumstances of the proposed marriage, the young person's representations, the parents' views, the review's recommendation and attaching a copy of the parents' written consents (if given), the Care Plan, the Pathway Plan and the minutes of the most recent Looked After Review.
The Head of Service should decide on whether the consent of the local authority to the marriage should be given. The decision should be evidenced in writing together with reasons and a copy retained on the young person's file.
If the consent of the parents and the local authority is given, the marriage can go ahead.
Where there is a consensus that the young person may marry, the Social Worker must obtain the relevant form from the County Secretary's Department and obtain the Head of Service's signature on this form which can then be passed to the young person.
If the marriage goes ahead consideration must be given to discharging the Care Order. This should be discussed and if appropriate agreed at a statutory review and if discharge is recommended revocation should be sought via the usual Departmental and Court processes.
The young person will then be an Eligible Young Person and entitled to support under the Care Leavers and Transition to Adulthood Procedure.
2.2 Where Consent is not Given
Where the necessary consents are not given to the marriage by the parents and/or the local authority, the social worker and the Personal Adviser should consider with the young person whether s/he wishes to obtain legal advice regarding a possible application to the Court for consent to the marriage.
In such circumstances, the Head of Service should be asked to consider a contribution towards the legal fees if legal aid is not available.
3. Where no Care Order Exists
If a young person of 16 or 17 who is Accommodated expresses a wish to marry, this should be considered at the Looked After Review even though the formal consent of the local authority is not necessary.
Where all those who have parental responsibility, or the person/s to whom a Residence Order/Child Arrangements Order has been made, give consent, the marriage can go ahead. Whether or not the young person leaves the looked after service at this stage, s/he will be an Eligible or Relevant Young Person and entitled to support under Care Leavers and Transition to Adulthood Procedure.
The Review may recommend that the young person's wish to marry should be supported even where the parents' consent is not given.
In these circumstances, the social worker and Personal Adviser should consider with the young person whether s/he wishes to obtain legal advice regarding a possible application to the Court for consent to the marriage.
If so, the social worker should request the Head of Service to consider a contribution towards the young person's legal fees if legal aid is not available.