This entry is part 4 of 20 in the series Marriage Legalities
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Prohibited relationships in Australia

By Published On: April 11, 2021Categories: Marriage Legalities
This entry is part 4 of 20 in the series Marriage Legalities

One of the legal requirements for getting married in Australia is that the parties to the marriage are not in a prohibited relationship (s23B(1), Marriage Act 1961). But what is a prohibited relationship? What does that term mean in the context of marriage in Australia?

Prohibited relationships

A prohibited relationship, according to s23B(2) of the Marriage Act, is a blood or adopted relationship between:

  • a person and their ancestor or descendant, or
  • two siblings (whether of the full blood, the half blood).

In plain English, that means you can’t marry any of your:

  • parent
  • grandparent
  • child
  • granchild
  • sibling.

Prohibited relationships can be by full blood, half blood, or adoption, even if the adoption has been terminated. So you can’t marry your half-sibling or your adopted parent/grandparent/child/sibling.

Non-prohibited relationships

In Australia, it’s absolutely legal to marry any of your:

When people were freaking out about Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow getting it on in the last season of Game of Thrones, I was busily telling everyone their relationship would be legal in Australia 🙂

On the Notice of Intended Marriage

Item 10 on the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM) asks whether the parties are related. We tick No in the vast majority of cases. If we tick Yes, we need to state the type of relationship and it can’t be a prohibited one. This item is asking about familial relationships; you don’t need to tick Yes and write Fiance (yes, it has been done).

Do related people actually get married?

In a word, yes. I’ll admit it’s pretty rare, but I personally know a couple who met, fell in love, and years later found out they are distant cousins. They were born and grew up in different countries and met while travelling. Who would have thought they’d be related? When they found out there was some argy bargy with their families, but they’re in love and as far as I’m aware, married now.

There’s also a thing called genetic sexual attraction. According to Wikipedia, the idea is that “biologically related people separated at a young age develop intense feelings (including sexual attraction) upon the restoration of contact.” Many people don’t think this is actually a thing. It’s been called pseudoscience. But there are several anecdotes of related people being reunited and falling in love. Take it or leave it…

More information

Click here for a full overview of the legal requirements of marriage in Australia.

Click on this link to find all the posts in my series about marriage legalities.

If you’re a celebrant wanting help with marriage legalities, come and join us at the Celebrant Institute!

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