Marriage - Capacity and consent

Before a marriage is recognised by the government, there must be consent or agreement between two people to be married. For consent to exist, both must agree to the marriage and neither should be forced into it.

Capacity generally refers to the mental ability of one or both of the people to agree to become spouses. Both must be of ‘sound’ mind and have capacity to agree to the marriage. Not all forms of mental illness or disability stop someone from marriage.

How does it work?

If you have a learning disability and have the capacity to make decisions, you have the same right to have the opportunity as anyone else.

It is important that you are supported to get married if you wish to do so and are not put under any pressure to marry. For consent to be legally valid, you must have the capacity to make the decision and have been given enough information to make the decision. And not have been under any pressure or threat of harm.

A marriage of someone with a learning disability who has capacity to consent and gives that consent freely is recognised as a valid marriage. This includes marriages arranged with the support of the family.

Who is involved?

Family or professionals who support you can ask for a Mental Capacity Assessment to be done. This may happen if there is a ‘reasonable belief’ that you do not have the capacity at the present time, to make a decision about specific and important matters in your life.  The assessment is usually done by a social worker,
or by a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist in the local community learning disability team.

Why is this important?

The professionals will want to protect you if there are concerns about vulnerability and safety