Perth pair looks to become first legally divorced same-sex couple in Australia

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Two bride figurines adorn the top of a wedding cake during an illegal same-sex wedding ceremony in central Melbourne August 1, 2009.
Two bride figurines adorn the top of a wedding cake during an illegal same-sex wedding ceremony in central Melbourne August 1, 2009. Reuters/Mick Tsikas

Same-sex marriage is finally legalised in Australia, prompting couples to plan their engagement and head to registry offices to file their intention to wed. Amid the celebrations, a Perth pair is set to become the first to divorce under the new law.

Lawyers were lodging documents for a woman set to become the first in Australia to file for same-sex divorce, reports the ABC. Her wedding with her long-time partner reportedly took place in 2015 at a consulate in Perth under the laws of a European country.

But things did not work out well for the pair and decided to separate. The woman realised she was in a marriage she did not want to be in. She has spoken to barrister Teresa Farmer and solicitor Maria Loukas regarding her intention to file for a divorce. She realised that getting a divorce would be more complicated for same-sex couples than for heterosexual couples.

Farmer said the difficulty for the particular couple was having married under the legislation of a European country. They could not access the country’s divorce system as both of them were not residents of that country.

Loukas said her client being stuck in her marriage meant the latter could not move on with her life. "It's been about not being able to tidy up the end of something to be able to start fresh somewhere else,” The ABC reports her as saying.

Thanks to the amendments to Australia's marriage act, the woman can officially end her marriage. The amendments passed by Parliament last week meant same-sex couples' union was instantly recognised in Australia; so was their eligibility to file for divorce.

The landmark measure became official when Queen Elizabeth’s representative in Australia has officially signed same-sex marriage into law. The first same-sex weddings in Australia can take place on January 9.

The United Nations found earlier this year that laws stopping same-sex pairs who got hitched overseas from getting divorced violated international human rights obligations. The decision was made in a case where an Australian woman who married in Canada in 2004 was unable to be legally divorced in Canada because she had not lived there for at least a year. She could not be subject to divorce proceedings in her home country because same-marriage was not yet legal in Australia at that time.

"But had Australia not changed the law, I don't know what would have happened for this couple,” Farmer said. She added that same-sex couples are no different to other married couples as failed marriages could possibly happen to them, too.