Parliament has given a third reading to the Minors (Court Consent to Relationships) Legislation Bill.
This requires 16 and 17 year olds who want to marry, to enter into a civil union, or to enter into a de facto relationships to obtain the consent of a Family Court Judge.
The bill, introduced by National MP Joanne Hayes, originally sought to require judicial consent only for marriage. However, the Justice select committee recommended that it be extended to include civil unions and de facto relationships.
The objective of the legislation is to prevent forced marriages and relationships. Until the passage of the new law, parental consent was needed by 16 and 17 year olds for marriage and civil unions, while a de facto relationship required written consent from each of the participant's guardians if it was to be legally recognised.
The new law will come into force on the day after the date on which it receives the Royal Assent.
Amendments made to the Marriage Act 1955 mean that on an application for the marriage of a 16 or 17 year old, the presiding Family Court Judge may appoint lawyers to assist the applicant or the court and may obtain a written cuiltural report.
Section 46A of the Care of Children Act 2004 has been replaced with a provision which requires any child aged 16 or 17 wishing to obtain consent for his or her de facto relationship to apply to the Family Court for the consent of a Family Court Judge.