How is Same-Sex Marriage Different to a Civil Union?

Jun 1, 2018 | Uncategorized

After many long years of waiting and campaigning, same-sex marriage was finally legalised on 9 December 2017 and everyone from Sydney and all around Australia celebrated. Previously under Australian law, same-sex couples were only able to formalise their union under what is called a “Civil Union” or a “Civil Partnership”, the rules and laws of which would vary depending on your state or territory.

Marriages and civil unions have similar requirements to be legalised

For those of you who are still uncertain about the differences between a civil union and same-sex marriage, we’ve broken down the requirements for each one.

MarriageCivil Union
May be same-sex or different genders

Not be married to someone else

Not be marrying a parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister

Be at least 18 years old unless the court has given prior approval

Understand what marriage means and freely consent to marry

Use specific wording during the ceremony

Give written notice of intention to marry to the authorised celebrant within the required time frame.

Terminated upon death or divorce
May be same-sex or different genders

Not be married to (or in a civil partnership with) someone else

Not be a prohibited relationship with a parent, descendant, sibling or half-sibling

Be at least 18 years old

Have at least one partner living in the state/territory where the ceremony is being performed

Ceremony is optional and legal vows are not used.

Give written notice of intention to marry to the notary or registry office within the required time frame.

Terminated upon death or marriage

The lack of understanding and legal recognition of civil unions

A quick look would suggest that the requirements of both a civil union/partnership and marriage are very similar. Where the difference lies is in the legal ramifications after the relationship is legalised. Although all Australian marriages are accepted internationally, civil unions are often not recognised in other countries or even other state and territories within Australia (the laws for civil unions and partnerships may also vary from state to state).

For example, in the case of a separation or divorce, married couples are automatically entitled to things such as spousal maintenance and property settlements. However, for civil partnership and unions, both parties must meet a particular set of requirements to have the same entitlements.

Similarly, when applying for a partner visa, married couples must show their marriage certificate. On the other hand, civil partnerships and defacto relationships must demonstrate an ongoing relationship for at least twelve months, as well as any accompanying paperwork such as bank statements or bills.

This lack of recognition and understanding means that for all intents and purposes, civil unions are incredibly different to marriages and are not afforded the same legal rights. So, if you’re thinking of making a lifelong commitment to your partner, we suggest skipping the civil partnerships and ringing those wedding bells instead. Celebrate your love, indulge in some stylish engagement rings, and throw a big party as you get married to the person you love!

Let's Talk

Schedule An Appointment or Consultation

Book your private consultation today with one of our experienced designers, diamond graders, and gemmologists. We are now offering face-to-face and virtual appointments.