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Getting married

Marriages must meet certain legal requirements to be valid.

Whether it’s an intimate gathering or a huge party, planning your marriage is an exciting time. But getting married in Australia isn’t just about the wedding. Marriages must meet certain legal requirements to be valid.

You may also have additional considerations, for example if you are planning a same sex wedding.

You can count on us to guide you through the legal requirements for your upcoming marriage.

What are the legal requirements for a marriage in Australia?

Marriage laws in Australia set out the requirements for valid marriages. If you’re aged 18 years or older, you can marry, so long as:

  • You’re not already married;
  • You’re able to consent to the marriage freely; and
  • You’re not in a prohibited relationship with the person you’re seeking to marry (for example, a close relative such as a sibling or parent).

You and your partner must each provide a Notice of Intended Marriage at least one month before the wedding.

A registered marriage celebrant can perform the marriage in the presence of two adult witnesses. Marriage celebrants include civil celebrants, religious ministers, and priests.

Occasionally, a person aged between 16 years and 18 years may marry, but only in special circumstances, for example, the parents have consented or there’s a court order allowing the marriage.

Same sex marriage laws in Australia

Australian marriage laws now recognise marriages between couples of the same sex.

In December 2017, same sex marriages became legal in Australia. Same-sex couples have the same rights under Australian marriage laws as any other married couples.

The new laws recognise a voluntary union of two people. (The previous laws only allowed a voluntary union of a man and woman.) All other legal requirements remain the same, although a registered celebrant can refuse to perform a marriage ceremony if they believe that it would be inconsistent with their own views or the beliefs of their religion.

It’s worth remembering that marriage usually invalidates a will.

That means that as soon as you marry, any previous will is no longer valid. You and your new spouse should make new wills as soon as possible after marrying.

You should both also update other legalities, for example:

  • Binding Death Nominations in your superannuation funds
  • Beneficiary nominations for any insurance policies, for example, life insurance, health insurance or income protection insurance
  • Powers of attorney and updated advance care directives
  • Any wishes concerning organ donation and funeral arrangements

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Frequently asked questions

Marriage laws in Australia require that if you’ve been married in the past, you must produce documents that show that you’re no longer married. This will be a divorce order issued by a court, or if your previous spouse passed away, a death certificate.

In most cases, you can’t marry again until you’ve provided this evidence to the Australian Government. If you can’t locate these documents, contact us for an obligation free first interview. We’ll help you sort it out.

Usually, foreign marriages will be valid in Australia if they satisfy two criteria:

  • Proper celebration of the marriage according to the laws of the other country; and
  • They must not offend Australian marriage laws, meaning that both parties must be of the legal age, they must have freely consented to the marriage, neither one is married to anyone else, and their relationship isn’t prohibited (for example, intending to marry a sibling or other close family member)

If you were married in accordance with the laws of another country, your marriage would probably be valid under Australian law. However, you will need to check that other legal documents are valid if you made them before the new marriage laws. For example, wills, binding death nominations (for superannuation), insurance beneficiary nominations and other nominations.

You and your spouse should seek legal advice about this as soon as possible.

Whether you were married in Australia or overseas, if your marriage doesn’t meet Australian legal requirements, annulment is possible. An annulment is a court order declaring the marriage invalid, and either party is free to marry again. But if you need orders about property or children, we can help you apply to a court for those orders.

Either party can ask a court to annul a marriage. The applicant must prove that the marriage offended Australian marriage laws, for example, they were forced into the marriage, they were too young to marry, the celebrant wasn’t properly registered, one of the parties was already married, or the couple was in a prohibited relationship.

If you are faced with the possibility of an annulment, you should seek legal advice from an experienced marriage annulment lawyer.

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