The idea of getting married in some far-away land with an idyllic setting and stunning scenery all around will appeal to many couples who are soon to become wed. However, unfortunately, there have been others who have jetted off before you, and, because they have not fully understood all the legal parameters in Australia that apply to weddings overseas, they have found themselves in what some might describe as a legal hole.
Our first piece of advice, as it is for anything relating to family law and marriage which you are unsure of, is to speak to a family lawyer. It might be that your query is answered in minutes over the phone, and all is good. In other circumstances when there could be an issue, their help and advice could prevent you from some unwanted situations, including discovering that your marriage is not recognised under family law as it stands in Australia.
First, we need to alert you to the fact that the legislation concerning marriages that occur internationally is the 1961 Marriage Act. It stipulates two basic requirements which must be met for a marriage to be recognised in Australia if it took place in another country.
The first stipulation is that according to the laws within the country the marriage took place, the marriage would ordinarily be recognised as legal and valid. Now, we obviously cannot outline the marriage laws of every country, however, if you are considering getting married overseas, it would serve you well ensure that the arrangements for the marriage and the marriage ceremony are valid. This includes checking that the person conducting the ceremony is legally certified to do so.
Prime examples of the sorts of other issues that occur are that the legal age for marriage differs across many different countries. Whilst in Australia the legal age for marriage without parental consent is 18, the following are just some of the countries where the minimum age to get married without parental consent is 21:
- Cook Islands
As you can see some of these would be considered an exotic and romantic place to get married, but unfortunately were a ceremony to take place and you were not of their legal age, it would not be considered valid in that country, and thus one of the two stipulations would not be met. Should any other element of local marriage law not be met then the same invalidity would apply in Australia.
The second stipulation in the 1961 Marriage Act relating to international marriages is that the marriage would have to be considered valid in Australia. If we stick with age limits, here is a way in which your marriage might be valid the country where your wedding took place, but not here.
This refers to countries where the legal age is lower than in Australia. For example, Scotland’s legal limit is 16 years of age without parental consent, which might explain why, to get married, so many young couples from England travel north to the village of Greta Green, which is just over the border. Other countries where you can marry at 16 include Spain, Vanuatu, Slovakia, and Malta.
So, if you are planning on getting married overseas, here are two legalities that must apply, 1) Your marriage must be legally valid in the country you marry in, and, 2) Your marriage must be considered valid under Australian family law.