The law that governs marriage in Australia is the Marriage Act 1961. This sets out who can marry, who can perform the ceremony, how the ceremony is conducted and where and when the ceremony may be performed.

Australians marrying overseas

If you get married overseas, then it is usually recognised as valid in Australia if you meet the following two conditions:

  1. Your marriage is recognised as valid under the laws of the country you were married in; and
  2. It would have been recognised as a valid marriage in Australia under Australian law if you’d been married in Australia

If you get married overseas, then there is no requirement to register the marriage back in Australia.

According to the Marriage Act, all you require is an original or certified copy of your marriage certificate or a record of marriage issued by a competent authority from that country. This then acts as proof of the validity of the marriage.

However, if you marry overseas, there may be additional legal requirements for you to get married in that country. In order to find out if there are any of these requirements, you should contact the embassy, consulate or high commission of the country you’re getting married in.

Some countries may require you to have a certificate of No Impediment to Marriage. This is usually issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) but you should check, as some countries will only accept them if they’re issued by the Australian embassy.

You may also need a Single Status Certificate or a No Record Result. You can obtain these from your state or territory Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Most countries will also ask you for your original birth certificate, a valid passport and your divorce papers or the death certificate of your former partner if you’re divorced or widowed.

Why may an overseas marriage be deemed invalid?

There are some circumstances where an overseas marriage may be deemed to be invalid. These are set out in the Marriage Act 1961. These reasons include but are not necessarily be limited to:

  • At the time of the marriage, one of the parties was married to another person;
  • One of the parties was not of ‘marriageable age’ (i.e. 18 years of age);
  • The parties are too closely related to marry (such as a brother and sister);
  • The consent for the marriage was not ‘real’ because;
    • It was obtained under duress;
    • It was obtained fraudulently;
    • There was a case of mistaken identity;
    • One of the parties did not understand the nature of the ceremony;
    • One party was incapable of understanding the nature and effect of a marriage ceremony.

What about same sex marriage?

The Marriage Act was amended in 2017 to allow marriage equality for same sex couples. Now, within the Act, marriage is defined as: ‘the union of two people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.’ This means that there are no restrictions on marriage in Australia based on sex or gender.

As a direct result of this, overseas same sex marriages are also automatically recognised under Australian law. A same sex marriage must still meet the same criteria of a valid marriage outlined above.

An overseas wedding will still be valid in Australia as long as it meets the outlined criteria. If you require some legal advice on your overseas marriage and how it may affect your family, then you should speak to one of our experienced team members.

Damien Greer

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