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Scotch Marriage Laws

November 1910, Fort George Tribune

Scotland has long been noted for its easy marriage laws, of which the lovesick lads and lassies of the more punctilious south have taken the advantage for generations.

In Scotland there are two classes of valid marriage, "regular" and "irregular" and even in the case of the former, there are important differences from English procedure.

In England a minor cannot legally marry without the consent of his or her parents or other guardians, but in Scotland a minor need ask nobody's leave before "committing matrimony", provided that, if a man has reached the age of 14, if a woman she is a veritable Venus at 12.

Interest, however, centers chiefly around Scotch "regular" marriages of which there are three kinds recognized by law.

In the first class is "marriage by declaration or acknowledgment". Here the contracting parties simply declare, either verbally or in writing, before two witnesses, that they take each other for husband and wife, or that they have already done so.

A good deal of nonsense has been written about these marriages by declaration. Many a romance has been made to hinge on such a plot as a couple playing in amateur theatricals going through a mock irregular marriage, only to find themselves tied up hard and fast for life. This is mere moonshine for the validity of a marriage by declaration depends on the intention and free consent of the parties to be married.

As the declaration may be made verbally, and the marriage need not be registered, it is clear that if the witnesses die there may be difficulty in establishing the marriage. It would seem that is a villain marries a girl by declaration and grows tired of her he has only to get rid of the witnesses somehow or other, to be in a position to repudiate his wife; but here the law is against him.

This brings us to the second class of "irregular marriage", namely "marriage by repute or habit".

If a couple have lived together as married, have addressed each other as husband and wife, and permitted others so to address them, the Scotch law holds them married, although proof of marriage may be wanting.

(So what has changed?)

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