With Australia being one of the most multicultural countries in the world, it’s unsurprising that many couples chose to incorporate their unique traditions into their wedding day. While this makes for a memorable occasion, it is important to ensure that religious ceremonies are conducted to ensure the couple is legally married in Australia. Particularly as it may affect divorce proceedings at a later date. New South Lawyers’ Family Law team discuss the issue in more depth below.

What does it mean to be legally married in Australia?

To file for divorce in Australia, you need to be legally married. The Marriage Act 1961 and the Marriage Regulations 2017 outline the requirements for getting married in Australia. These include:  Firstly, not already being married; Secondly, not be marrying a relative like parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister; Thirdly, be at least 18 years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where one person is 16-18 years old; Fourthly, understand what marriage means and freely agree to marry; Fifthly,  use specific words during the ceremony; Sixthly, give a notice of intended marriage form to an authorised marriage celebrant at least one month before your wedding; and Finally, be married by an authorised marriage celebrant.

What difference does being legally married in Australia actually make?

Without being legally married, you and your partner are considered as being a “de facto” couple by the Court during your family law proceedings. Whilst this difference may seem slight there are multiple factors that differ for married and de facto couples. For example, for a de facto couple seeking a property settlement or spousal maintenance they must meet the following criteria and “prove” the status of the relationship:  Firstly, you were in a genuine de facto relationship which has broken down; Secondly, you meet one of the following criteria: 
  •     the relationship lasted at least two years;
  •     there is a child of the relationship;
  •       the relationship is/was registered under any prescribed laws; or
  •     with regard to property claims, if significant contributions were made by one party that it would be a serious injustice not to issue an order.
 Thirdly, you have a geographic connection to the jurisdiction; and Finally,  your relationship broke down after 1 March 2009. In contrast, the only requirement for married couples is to be married. If you have not registered your marriage or are not legally married, please inform your solicitor as issues may arise if your matter proceeds with the understanding that you are legally married.

Religious divorce

Getting religiously divorced can be a difficult different process depending upon your religion and it is unlikely you will require legal assistance to seek a religious divorce. However, if there are children and property involved it is very important to seek legal advice.  If you have questions about your marriage's legal validity, you should seek legal advice before applying for divorce. . To discuss your Family Law matter, please contact our Sydney Family Law team on 02 9891 6388.

New South Lawyers’ communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. To that end, people should not rely on this communication as legal advice. Accordingly, they should seek formal legal advice for matters of interest arising from this communication.

To find out more, chat with a member of New South Lawyers' Family Law Team today.