This entry is part 11 of 20 in the series Marriage Legalities
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Providing inaccurate information on the marriage documents

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

Is it possible to provide inaccurate information on the marriage documents? This is a question that comes up a lot, usually in relation to a parent’s details, but sometimes also re previous marriages. In a word, no. Let’s take a look at why.

Purpose of the information captured on marriage documents

The Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM), Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage (DONLIM), and Official Certificates of Marriage (OCMs) are legal documents prescribed by the Marriage Act 1961. The information captured on the documents is used to:

For all of these purposes to have integrity, the information provided on the forms must be accurate.

Marriage documents are legal documents

Marriage documents are legal documents, and it is actually an offence under the Marriage Act to record or accept inaccurate information on the documents.

Section 104 of the Marriage Act

Section 104 of the Marriage Act says:

A person shall not give a notice to an authorised celebrant under section 42, or sign a notice under section 42 after it has been given, if, to the knowledge of that person, the notice contains a false statement or an error or is defective.

Penalty: Imprisonment for 6 months or 5 penalty units.

FYI: Penalty units make up a monetary fine. The amount payable per unit is defined by the Crimes Act 1914 and is updated annually.

Let’s break that down – the legal language can be tricky to understand!

  • A notice under section 42 is the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM).
  • It is an offence to give a NOIM to an authorised celebrant if the person giving the NOIM knows it contains a false statement, an error, or is defective (i.e. inaccurate information).
  • It is an offence for an authorised celebrant or a party to the marriage to sign the NOIM if the person signing knows it contains a false statement, an error, or is defective (i.e. inaccurate information).
  • The penalty for a couple knowingly providing or a celebrant knowingly accepting inaccurate information on the NOIM is up to 6 months imprisonment, or a fine of up to 5 penalty units (at the time of writing, $1110).

Sections 42 and 99 of the Marriage Act in relation to the NOIM

Section 42(8)(b)(i) of the Marriage Act says:

An authorised celebrant shall not solemnise a marriage if the authorised celebrant has reason to believe that a notice given under this section in relation to the marriage, contains a false statement or an error or is defective.

Section 99(1) of the Marriage Act makes it an offence for an authorised celebrant to solemnise a marriage in contravention of section 42. Again, the penalty is imprisonment for 6 months or 5 penalty units.

Let’s break down what those two sections taken together mean:

  • A notice under section 42 is the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM).
  • It is an offence for an authorised celebrant to perform a marriage if they have any reason to believe that the NOIM given by the couple contains a false statement, an error, or is defective (i.e. inaccurate information).
  • The penalty for a celebrant performing a marriage when they’re concerned about inaccurate information on the NOIM is up to 6 months imprisonment, or a fine of up to 5 penalty units (at the time of writing, $1110).

Sections 42 and 99 of the Marriage Act in relation to the DONLIM

Section 42(8)(b)(ii) of the Marriage Act says:

An authorised celebrant shall not solemnise a marriage if the authorised celebrant has reason to believe that a declaration made and subscribed under this section in relation to the marriage, contains a false statement or an error or is defective.

Section 99(1) of the Marriage Act makes it an offence for an authorised celebrant to solemnise a marriage in contravention of section 42. Again, the penalty is imprisonment for 6 months or 5 penalty units.

Let’s break down what those two sections taken together mean:

  • A declaration made and subscribed under section 42 is the Declaration of No Legal Impediment to Marriage (DONLIM).
  • It is an offence for an authorised celebrant to perform a marriage if they have any reason to believe that the DONLIM made and subscribed by the couple contains a false statement, an error, or is defective (i.e. inaccurate information).
  • The penalty for a celebrant performing a marriage when they’re concerned about inaccurate declarations on the DONLIM is up to 6 months imprisonment, or a fine of up to 5 penalty units (at the time of writing, $1110).

Real life examples

Parents’ names

I have written more in another post about parents’ information on the NOIM. For the purpose of this post, I want to talk about a question celebrants hear all the time:

I don’t get along with my parent. OR They were abusive. OR I never met them. OR They have never been involved in my life. OR I was raised by my step-parent who did not legally adopt me. Do I have to list my legal parent’s name on the NOIM?

According to the sections of the Marriage Act I listed above, it is an offence for a marrying party AND for the celebrant to not list a legal parent on the NOIM. If someone else was listed, or if the item was left blank, and this was discovered, the party AND the celebrant could potentially be convicted with an offence and suffer the penalties listed.

How would it be discovered? Some Registries of Births, Deaths and Marriages will cross-check the marriage documents with birth documents if the party was born in the same State/Territory as they’re married. If they find the information does not match, they may refuse to register the marriage until the marriage documents are corrected.

As discussed above, the NOIM is a legal document and must not include inaccurate information. The parents’ names do not need to be included in the ceremony in any way. They are simply recorded on the NOIM and the Official Certificates of Marriage, which are important legal documents.

Previous marriages

I have written more in another post about the conjugal status item on the NOIM. For the purpose of this post, here’s a question we sometimes hear when one of the couple goes to the bathroom:

I actually have been married before but my partner doesn’t know. Can we just leave that off the NOIM?

You’ll probably be able to guess my answer by now: no. It is an offence both for the marrying party and for the celebrant, who now can’t unknow this new information.

As stated above, the NOIM is a legal document and must not include inaccurate information. Nobody else at the wedding needs to know about previous marriages, not even the official witnesses. But the information must be included on the marriage documents, and I can’t see how your partner would be able to be kept ignorant.

I would also suggest it’s not a great start to a marriage to keep something as major as a previous marriage from your partner…

Marriage documents form part of a chain of evidence that a person will use during their life to establish their identity and obtain identity documents. If they contain inaccurate information, it will be considerably more difficult for parties to obtain identity documents in the future.

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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