When are marriages conducted outside of Australia considered invalid?

by The FindLaw Team

It’s probably a fair assumption that many Australians and migrants have not married within the country, but instead have been married overseas. It may seem like a no-brainer that marriages solemnised overseas should be recognised under Australian law and it is in most instances, however, there may be certain situations when a marriage solemnised overseas may have no effect under Australia’s Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) (the Act), and therefore, cannot gain recognition under the current incarnation of the Act.

What makes an overseas marriage valid?

In order for a marriage solemnised overseas to be valid in Australia, the marriage must conform to the legal requirements of the country in which the marriage is held. If no such laws exist, then the vows must be performed before an episcopally ordained priest and generally should also include the following:

  • the ceremony was documented and witnessed
  • vows were exchanged before an ordained priest.

If the basic common law parameters are met, then the marriage will usually be recognised in Australia as valid.

On the other hand, if the marriage took place during a period of civil strife such as the breakdown of the civilian authority, or during a period of armed conflict within the country in question, then it may be impossible to conform with the local requirements, and as a consequence, the marriage may not be recognised as valid in Australia.

Under what circumstances may an overseas marriage not be valid?

One of the important things to consider – especially when at least one of the parties to the marriage conducted overseas is Australian – is that the provisions of the Act are still applicable. So for example, if a person was below what is considered as the legal marriageable age under the Act – which is 18 years of age – then the marriage may not be recognised in Australia.

It should also be noted, that a marriage conducted in which neither of the parties are Australian citizens, and if one or both of the parties to the marriage is underage, the union may also not be legally valid under Australia law for as long as one of the parties is under the age of 16.

If anyone is experiencing complications in regards to any issue involving marriage or family law, always seek the help of an experienced legal practitioner. 


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