For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.
Marriage is a union of two people of any sex or gender voluntarily entered into for life.
Two people aged 18 years or older can legally marry if they meet certain requirements. There are also limited circumstances in which a person aged 16 or 17 years can marry someone aged 18 years or older.
Some marriages are not legally recognised, including if you are forced to get married against your wishes, you are underage, you are married to more than one person or you have a prohibited relationship with the other person.
When can you get married?
A person is allowed to get married if they:
- are at least 18 years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where one person is aged 16 or 17 years old;
- are not married to someone else;
- understand what marriage means and freely agree to being married;
- are not marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild or sibling, which includes relatives in these categories via adoption;
- give written notice of their intention to marry to an authorised marriage celebrant, at least one month and no more than 18 months before the wedding;
- use specific words during the ceremony; and
- are married by an authorised marriage celebrant.
You can read more about the process of getting married in Australia here.
What if you are under 18?
You cannot get married if you are under 16 years old.
If you are aged 16 or 17 years old, you can marry a person aged 18 years or older if certain requirements are met, which are explained below. You cannot marry another person aged 16 or 17 years old.
The minimum requirements that must be met for a 16 or 17 year old to marry are:
- a judge or magistrate must make an order authorising the marriage to a particular person aged 18 years or older; and
- parents or guardians have given consent to the marriage, or it has been determined that their consent is not required.
In deciding whether to make an order allowing the marriage, the judge or magistrate must be satisfied that the person is at least 16 years old and that the circumstances of the case are exceptional and unusual. The types of things that the court might consider include:
- your maturity;
- the length of your relationship with your partner;
- your financial situation;
- how independent you are as a couple;
- why you want to get married; and
- what your families think of you getting married.
It is very rare for orders to be made allowing persons aged 16 or 17 years to marry. If you are given permission to get married, you must get married within 3 months of the date of the court order.
Applications for a minor to marry are usually made to the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia and you can access the relevant forms here.
The laws around getting married when you are under 18 can be a bit confusing. If you are under 18 and want to get married, you can contact us for advice here.
Who can you marry?
There are laws about who you can marry. Certain types of relatives have a prohibited relationship with you, which means that you cannot marry a:
- sibling or half-sibling;
- child; or
This includes anybody in any of these categories who is related to you by adoption, including if the adoption order has been cancelled or discharged.
You can marry other types of relatives or people from your household including aunts, uncles, cousins, step siblings and foster siblings.
When is a marriage not legally recognised?
In some cases, a marriage might be considered void. This means that the marriage is not legally recognised. A marriage will be considered void if:
- either person is already married to a different person;
- the parties are in a prohibited relationship (explained above);
- the people getting married did not comply with all the requirements like giving notice or they made a false statement;
- either person did not give real consent (e.g. they were forced or tricked into the marriage or they did not understand what was happening); or
- either person is under the age of 18 and a court did not give permission for the marriage to occur.
What offences can apply?
There are laws that make certain things illegal, including:
- marrying more than one person;
- marrying someone under 18 years old, unless the marriage has been authorised by a court and the relevant consent requirements have been met, or the person has been married before; or
- forcing someone to marry you. This means that if you don’t give permission to your marriage, then it is not legal. This includes if you are a child and your parents give permission on your behalf. You can check out our page on Forced child marriage if you would like more information.
If you have any questions about getting married in Australia you can contact us for free, confidential legal advice here.
March 7, 2018
February 22, 2023
Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)
Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 (Cth)