Australian gay couple in ‘legal limbo’ can finally divorce


Australian gay couple in 'legal limbo' can finally divorce

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Image caption The pair were trapped in a "legal limbo", lawyers said

As the first same-sex couples began registering for marriage in Australia, one woman was exercising another new right – being allowed to divorce.

Lawyers for the Perth woman filled out divorce papers on Sunday, a day after same-sex marriage became legal.

The pair had wed in a European nation's consulate in Australia in 2015.

When they later separated, the couple found themselves in a "legal limbo" of being unable to divorce in either nation, barrister Teresa Farmer said.

"They were just stuck. [My client] was very much inextricably linked to this person and couldn't do anything about it," Ms Farmer told the BBC.

"Unless something changed in Australia, or in the overseas jurisdiction, she wasn't going to be able to move on."

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The women, who cannot be named for legal reasons, could not divorce because they were not residents of the country that married them, Ms Farmer said.

Australia, meanwhile, did not recognise same-sex marriages until Saturday. The impasse lasted for more than a year.

First divorce?

The marriage was immediately recognised when Australia's new laws became official, after MPs overwhelmingly voted for the change last week.

Ms Farmer said her client immediately lodged an application for divorce, received by a court on Monday.

It was possibly the first application for a same-sex divorce in Australia, she said.

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Ms Farmer said her client had previously been resigned to waiting for Australia's same-sex marriage debate to play out.

"She just accepted there wasn't anything she could do about it. She wasn't happy but there was nothing she could do," the barrister said.

"She is now very relieved. She has re-partnered and she just wants to get on with life."

Residency in a country is typically required for divorce applications, another family lawyer, Chris Dimock, told the BBC.

Reporting by the BBC's Frances Mao

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