Marriage in Australia
Both partners are over 18
If you and your partner are both over 18, you can get married without having to get anybody’s permission.
Both partners are under 18
If you and your partner are both under 18, you cannot get married.
You are 16 or 17, and your partner is over 18
If you are 16 or 17 and want to get married to someone who is over 18, you will need permission from a judge or magistrate, and usually permission from your parents or guardians. You will also need to show that you freely agree to the marriage. The law does not allow ‘forced marriages’.
Getting the permission of a judge or magistrate
You will need to apply to a judge or a magistrate for permission. You should get legal advice about how to do this. The judge or magistrate will look at your situation and decide whether to allow you to get married. The judge or magistrate will look at your maturity, the length of your relationship, your financial situation and how independent you are as a couple. Just because you or your partner is pregnant will not mean that you automatically get permission. The judge or magistrate will only give his/her permission in exceptional and unusual circumstances. It might be easier to wait until you turn 18 to marry.
If the judge or magistrate does give you permission to marry, you must marry within three months.
Getting the permission of your parents or guardians
To have your marriage made official, you will need the permission of your parents/guardians. This permission will need to be in writing, witnessed and dated not earlier than 3 months before your wedding day. You need to give this permission to the person marrying you (the religious leader or civil marriage celebrant).
If you cannot get your parents’/guardians’ consent (e.g. because you don’t know how to contact them), you can prepare a legal document showing the facts and circumstances which make it impossible or impractical to get their consent. If the judge or magistrate accepts your application and there is no reason to believe that your parents/guardians would refuse to give their consent, the judge or magistrate may decide that their consent is not needed.
If one or both of your parents/guardians lives overseas, you may still need to seek their permission.
If your parents/guardians refuse to give you consent to get married, you can apply to a judge or magistrate to give you permission instead. If the judge or magistrate thinks that your parents/guardians are not being reasonable in refusing to give you permission and you have seen an accredited family counsellor about getting married, the judge or magistrate may give you his/her permission instead of your parents’/guardians’.
Same sex couples cannot get married, because the current law in Australia defines marriage as between a man and a woman. If you are in a same sex relationship, you can have a commitment ceremony and in some states you may be able to register your relationship as a domestic partnership.
What if you are already married?
If you or your partner has been married in the past, you must obtain a divorce from the Family Court or the Federal Magistrates Court. To marry someone while you are already married is a criminal offence called bigamy and is punishable by up to five years imprisonment.
Who else can’t get married?
You cannot marry your brother or sister, or one of your parents, or your own child.
Please visit the Attorney-General’s Department website at www.ag.gov.au and follow the links to ‘Marriage’.
Updated 25 October 2013