Married At First Sight - A Legal Perspective
Updated: Mar 26
It’s marketed as ‘Australia’s biggest social experiment’. Married at First Sight shows nine couples who are paired together by ‘experts’, tie the knot without having never met each other.
Getting married to a complete stranger - what could possibly go wrong?
Well legally speaking, nothing, as these contestants are not legally married.
In Australia, people can’t get married on a whim as under the Marriage Act 1961, some planning and notice must be involved, including providing at least one (1) months’ (but no more than 18 months’) notice of the marriage to an authorised celebrant. There are of course exceptions to the rules including medical reasons and other exceptional circumstances; however, being involved in ‘Australia’s biggest social experiment’ is not an exceptional circumstance for an exception to the rule.
So alas, what viewers are watching is merely a ‘commitment ceremony’ - a ceremony without the legal rights and responsibilities of a legal wedding.
Arranged marriages are however legal - as long as these marriages meet the legal requirements below. The couple doesn’t have to prove that they know each other particularly well, they just need to fully consent and know the other person’s full name, age and marital status.
When getting married in Australia, it is important to know the legal requirements beforehand. According to the Attorney General’s Department, you must:
· not be married
· not be marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister
· be at least 18 years old, unless a court has approved a marriage where 1 person is 16-18 years old
· understand what marriage means and freely agree to marry
· use specific words during the ceremony
· give a notice of intended marriage form to an authorised marriage celebrant at least 1 month and no more than 18 months before your wedding
· be married by an authorised marriage celebrant
You don’t have to be:
· an Australian citizen
· a permanent resident of Australia
What are the documents you need?
· Original birth certificate or original birth extract
· Original passport, Australian or overseas
· If you were married previously, you need to show proof of divorce (Divorce Certificate or a Decree Absolute) or a death certificate.
· You will need to complete a statutory declaration; this is provided by the celebrant.
· The Notice of Intended Marriage as mentioned above.
This demonstrates that marriage is not something to be entered into lightly. It’s also wise for a couple entering into a marriage quickly to identify the risks.
If a couple decides to divorce in Australia, they have to prove that the marriage has irretrievably broken down and they have been separated for 12 months. Of course there are considerable costs associated with filing. If the marriage has lasted under two years or there have been children from the marriage, the court may require the couple to seek counselling.
Our Accredited Family Law Specialists deal with matters in all areas of Family Law. To make an appointment with our Family Law Team, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 9667 1271.