Marriage law contains the various rules and regulations a couple must follow to be considered legally married. While anyone is welcome to live together, a legal marriage is the act of a consenting couple agreeing to become husband and wife until death or divorce separates them. It is a legally binding contract that places certain responsibilities on the parties to provide for and support each other and also grants the couple special privileges such as tax deductions. For a marriage to be considered legal and binding, the couple must qualify and apply for a marriage license and have a certificate of marriage signed and filed by the person, such as a pastor, who performs the wedding ceremony.
Laws vary based on the state or territory where the couple wants to get married. In the Marriage Act of 1961, passed by the Australian parliament, it defines marriage as "the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life" and sets out many rules about marriage that are similar to those found in other countries such as the United States. For a marriage to be valid, it must meet certain criteria set out by the marriage law in that area.
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These criteria commonly include the age of the man and woman getting married, whether they are able to consent to the marriage, and whether or not they are related. A person who cannot understand what marriage is cannot give consent to it and therefore is not allowed to marry. In many places, both parties must be 16 years of age or older. If they are younger, their parents or a judge must sign and approve of the marriage first.
Certain types of marriage are prohibited in different areas. Common reasons for refusing a marriage are a prohibited degree of kinship between the two parties, one of the two people being currently married, and a disease or STD that one or both people may have. The laws change based on the area. Though less common, both people may need to undergo a blood test, and if one of the partners has a certain disease — particularly one that could affect any children the couple might have — the two may be prohibited from marrying.
Two people who are closely related may be banned from marrying as well. Depending on the area, marriage law may prohibit marriages between two people up to three degrees of kinship by blood. Fourth degree of kinship or beyond would be accepted. Certain areas do accept closer relations, such as first cousins, to marry but may only allow it if the partners are physically unable to have children.
To create a legal marriage according to marriage law, a couple should first obtain a marriage license. After receiving the license, they must wait from one to six days, typically, before having the ceremony. After the ceremony, the pastor or other person who performed it should sign the marriage certificate.