Navigating Love and Legalities: Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce in Australia

Gay marriage

Legalisation of same-sex marriage

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Australia since December 2017, following a national postal survey in which the majority of Australians voted in favour of same-sex couples having the right to marry.

The legalisation of same-sex marriage brought with it a host of legal rights and protections that afford couples equality under the law. Same-sex couples who choose to marry are entitled to the same legal recognition and benefits as heterosexual couples, including rights related to property ownership, taxation, inheritance, and decision-making in times of illness or incapacity.

The legal recognition of same-sex marriage ensures that couples can access these rights and protections without discrimination, marking a significant milestone in Australia’s commitment to equality and inclusivity for all its citizens. 

Recently, the ABS released the latest national marriage and divorce statistics, revealing that there were 22,385 LGBTQ+ marriages recorded from 2018 to 2022. However, with the legalisation of gay marriage also comes the issue of separation or divorce. The ABS data showed that lesbians have been getting married at higher rates than gay men, but they have also been getting divorced more frequently. In 2022, there were a total of 178 male same-sex divorces versus 380 female same-sex divorces.

Challenges of same-sex divorce

Navigating divorce proceedings can pose unique challenges for same-sex couples, stemming from legal complexities, societal attitudes and a system that was originally designed without same-sex couples in mind. As a result of this, the legal system often may not fully recognise or understand same-sex relationships.

One significant challenge is the lack of precedent and established legal frameworks specifically tailored to same-sex divorce, which can lead to uncertainty and ambiguity in the process.

Property division can be particularly complex, especially if assets were acquired before marriage or if there are discrepancies in financial contributions between partners.

Additionally, child custody arrangements may encounter obstacles, with some jurisdictions potentially showing bias or lack of familiarity with non-traditional family structures. Other legal matters, such as spousal support and pension entitlements, may also require careful consideration and negotiation.

Ultimately, same-sex couples navigating divorce must often contend with legal intricacies and societal attitudes, as well as a system that may not fully recognise the validity of their relationships, underscoring the importance of seeking competent legal counsel and support tailored to their unique circumstances.

Contact us

Dowson Turco Lawyers is Australia’s only Out Loud and Proud® LGBTQA+ law firm, servicing all communities. Our family lawyers have decades of experience working on simple and very complex matters. They will help you navigate the legal system with empathy and support. Get in touch by emailing us at, visiting our Facebook page or connecting with us on LinkedIn. You can also call us on 02 8000 7300.