How Are Foreign Marriages and Separation Treated Under Family Laws of Australia?

How Are Foreign Marriages and Separation Treated Under Family Laws of Australia?

The young people these days are more than open to the idea of cohabitation, same-sex relationships and marrying a foreigner. The evolution of cross-cultural marriages is only an indication of increasing number of world citizens who are not tying themselves to a single country for working, living, marrying and having a family.

An Australian girl does not have qualms marrying an Indonesian guy or a Singapore guy finds his soulmate in an Australian lass! That, I personally feel is a good thing. As the minds open up to accept and accommodate other culture and a totally different person than oneself, the world may hopefully become a better place for everyone! Yes, I am an optimist😊

Thinking of good things, begin a grand relationship. That’s how overseas marriages take place, like a fairy tale. It starts on the note of trust and love. However, it saddens me how marriages lose their sheen over a period of time, for whatever reasons and the couple have to separate. It is a very unfortunate and disappointing moment in a couple’s life. But separation may be the only solution left for the couple to move on and live different and peaceful lives.

What if your marriage has taken place overseas, or you have a foreign partner who insists on divorcing in his/her home country, or what if you no more stay in Australia to file for divorce? These questions are tricky. And to answer these, one has to know few ground rules in family laws of Australia.

To start with, let us know what legal status foreign marriages hold in Australia?



Generally, if a foreign country has recognised your marriage, then it is also recognised in Australia. There are few exceptions to this:

  • If any of the partners was not of marriageable age (18 years)
  • If any of the partners was already married
  • If the partners are in prohibited relationship, such as siblings or descendants
  • If there is no proof of consent by either of the partners for the marriage

The above scenarios put off the foreign marriage in Australia. Irrespective of whether such marriage was approved in a foreign country depending on their customs.

There is no need to separately register your marriage in Australia. If you are divorcing all you have to do is show your marriage certificate as proof of your valid marriage and prove that you have been separated for a period of 12 months or more. Irrevocable marriage is a reason enough to apply for divorce in Australia unlike in other countries like the UK where one has to provide a reason and prove it to get a divorce.

Now, when your overseas marriage is considered valid in Australia, you can apply for divorce. But what if either of you is not staying in Australia anymore? Can you still file for divorce in Australia and get your settlements done through court?

The very first thing is you or your partner must be strongly connected to Australia to file a divorce in Australia.Unless your divorce case falls under Australian jurisdiction for the reason that you or your partner are genuinely connected to Australia, the courts will not hear your divorce case.

Either of you should meet the below requirements to file the divorce in Australia eventhough you live outside Australia:

  • Both or anyone of you is an Australian citizen
  • Both or anyone of you considers Australia your home and intends to stay here indefinitely
  • Both or anyone of you generally lives in Australia and have been in Australia for atleast for a year just before applying for adivorce.

If you or your spouse satisfy any one of the above criteria to prove your connection with Australia, you can file your divorce and settlement case in an Australian court of law. The Australian family lawyers can file your case for divorce and represent you in the Family Court of Australia. Most of the times you don’t need to come to Australia for a divorce hearing, but you have to show to the court that you both have made adequate arrangements for the child or children if any.



The legal documents can be signed and submitted through the post, fax or emails and your family lawyer can take care of the divorce process in Australia.

Here’s an example of an overseas marriage: If you are an Australian citizen and your spouse is a US citizen. And you got married in NewZealand 4 years ago and are living in the UK now, you can apply for divorce in Australia on the basis that you are an Australian citizen.

Such cases as above are increasingly common and need attention to the family laws that apply to your life situation.

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