Parramatta’s Family Law Experts

Parramatta, North Parramatta and Western Sydney Family Lawyers

Choose the trusted team

Understanding the laws of married and de facto relationships can be important during a separation.

With a wealth of experience in this realm, Family Law Experts can help you during what can be a very difficult time.

Marriage in Australia

According to the Marriage Act 1961 (Australia), marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life.

At present the age for marriage is 18 years and applies for men and women. If there are ‘unusual and exceptional circumstances’, the marriage of one person aged 16 or 17 years to someone aged 18 years or over may be authorised by the court.

In Australia, marriage must be solemnized by an authorised celebrant.

A marriage may be declared void if:

  • Either party is already married
  • The parties are direct descendants, siblings or siblings adopted by law
  • Either party did not consent due to duress, fraud, mistake as to identify, mistake as to the nature of the ceremony or mental incapacity
  • Either party was below marriageable age
  • The ceremony was not officiated by an authorised party

At present, a union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; is not recognised as a marriage in Australia.

Foreign Marriages

In Australia, marriages are recognised if they are valid in the country where they were performed and if the marriage would be deemed legal under Australian law.

A couple may provide a foreign marriage certificate as proof of a marriage and a marriage need not be formally registered in Australia.

Annulment and Divorce

A decree of nullity is an order stating there is no legal marriage despite a marriage ceremony taking place.

In Australia, a marriage may be annulled if it does not comply with the legal requirements of marriage, as stated above. An application can be made to the Family Court for an order. There is no requirement for separation prior to the application being made.

In order for a couple to divorce, they must prove that they have been separated for a period of at least 12 months.

Find out more about divorce in Australia

De Facto Relationships in Australia

A de facto relationship is defined in Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975.

The law requires that you and your former partner, who may be of the same or opposite sex, had a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. Your relationship is not a de facto relationship if you are legally married to one another or if you are related to each other.

During a separation, the Family Law Court of Australia deals with issues of a de facto couple the same way they would if the couple were married. These include dividing property, dividing assets, child custody agreements and spousal maintenance.

In the case of a financial dispute, you must apply for de facto financial orders within two years of the breakdown of your relationship. After this time, you need the Court’s permission to apply.

Before the Court can determine your financial dispute, you must satisfy the Court on all of the following:

  • you were in a genuine de facto relationship with your former partner which has broken down
  • you meet one of the following four criteria:
    1. That the period for the de facto relationship is at least 2 years;
    2. That there is a child in the de facto relationship;
    3. That the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory; or
    4. When assessing property or custodial claims in cases of a breakdown of a relationship, it is recognised that significant contributions were being made by one party and the failure to issue an order would result in a serious injustice
  • you have a geographical connection to a participating jurisdiction
  • your relationship broke down after 1 March 2009 (or after 1 July 2010 if you have a geographical connection to South Australia only); although you may be able to apply to the courts if your relationship broke down prior to the date applicable to your state.

During the breakdown of a de facto relationship, legal advice is just as important and relevant as with the breakdown of a marriage in order to resolve financial, property and custody disputes.

Talk to an expert regarding your legal concerns surrounding the breakdown of your relationship today by contacting the Family Law Experts.


Parramatta, North Parramatta and Western Sydney Family Lawyers

Choose the trusted team

Call Family Law Experts on (02) 9630 0444