Can you get a divorce in Australia if you got married overseas? Each year there are many couples who get married and many couples who seek a divorce. What happens in you’re living in Australia and would like to get a divorce but you married overseas? Can you get a divorce?
Australia is a country of diversity. Multiculturalism is one of our proudly worn badges and many Australians like to travel the world and return back to this place of great opportunity. Sometimes, we fall in love while away and get married overseas. But, like the rest of the world, we live in a reality where marriages don’t always last and forever may be just a few years.
It is not very hard to get a divorce in Australia. While our family law system has its flaws and the courts are often overloaded, in the context of the rest of the world, we don’t do too badly for making divorce an option for most married people. This includes those who get married overseas.
In our country we have people who have moved here for the first time after they were married. It might be Jim and Edna Brown from Wiltshire, England, who moved here in the 1970’s to make a fresh start. Or perhaps it might be the couple who have just moved in down the road, Hassan and Muna Abboud, who moved here from Sudan during the start of the South Sudanese Civil War.
You might have friends who travelled while they were in their early 20’s, met their spouse while they were abroad and got married there. It could be your Uncle who met and married his second wife on his extended holiday in Bali. These are all examples of couples who may decide to and may be able to get divorced in Australia – if they meet the requirements.
Divorce Requirements For Those Who Married Overseas
To get a divorce in Australia, you first need to have had a marriage recognisable in Australia. Part VI of the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) (Marriage Act) makes provision for the recognition of foreign marriages in Australia. If the marriage ceremony of an Australian citizen takes place overseas, it will be recognised in Australia as a valid marriage providing it was:
- Valid under the local law at the time it was entered into; and
- The marriage would have been recognised under Australian law if it took place in Australia.
Permanent Australian Resident
At least one party to the marriage must be an Australian citizen or have ordinarily resided in Australia for at least a year prior to filing an application to divorce. Even if one spouse is overseas, as long as this requirement is met then divorce proceedings can be launched.
Twelve Month Separation
Living separately and apart from your spouse for at least 12 months prior to a divorce application is a requirement for any divorce in Australia. This doesn’t necessarily mean living under different roofs, but you need to show that you have not been living as a married couple for at least 12 months.
Marriage Certificate Translation and Affidavit
Anyone applying for a divorce needs to complete an Application for Divorce and file it along with their marriage certificate. If the certificate is in another language then it needs to be filed with an English translation, as well as an affidavit from the person who completed the translation. The affidavit details their translation qualifications and confirms their translation is accurate and from the original marriage certificate.
Diversity and Culture as a Stumbling Block
A couple of years ago a new clinic was set up by the Women’s Legal Centre ACT to provide specialised advice and legal representation to women from different cultures who face significant challenges as they try to navigate a foreign legal system and end their marriages. The legal centre’s executive director, Heidi Yates, said, “We think there is a need in the Canberra community to work with women on this issue. . . We know that women from [culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds] across Australia experience high levels of domestic violence and it’s important for them to have access to expert legal advice and representation.”
Ms Yates said many people assumed that applying for a divorce was a simple process, but women from different cultures often struggled to understand the legal system and battled cultural barriers. Ms Yates also said the centre’s staff dealt with a growing number of women from various cultural backgrounds who found the divorce process difficult and complex.
She said some women who married overseas didn’t have a marriage certificate, which was needed as proof of a marriage, either because it had been lost as they fled war or conflict or they simply never got one. Matters were further complicated if the woman’s husband was overseas or could not be found. “There are also translator and interpreter requirements in relation to affidavits and other legal documents,” Ms Yates said. “It can be very difficult for women who aren’t familiar with our legal system.”
Our experienced family lawyers at Divorce Lawyers Brisbane understand that the process of divorce can feel overwhelming for many people. We like to help simplify the steps to enable you to make informed decisions about divorce every step of the way. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation. To speak to one of our family lawyers please contact us today.