I recently helped clients obtain a shortening of time so that they could marry under the 30-day notice period.
Schedule 3 of the Marriage Regulations 2017 provides the circumstances under which shortening of time can be sought. One of those is 'error in giving notice' and it applies to an error by the celebrant in relation to dealing with the Notice of Intended Marriage (NOIM).
My clients had approached the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages (BDM) in Sydney in October 2022 seeking to marry in the registry office in the nearest regional urban centre. The BDM ceremony booking team refused the booking, telling my clients they could not marry in that urban centre as the BDM did not have a registry office there. However, the team erred in not telling the couple that they could marry in the local courthouse at that location, nor did they tell them of the option to use a civil or religious celebrant.
The couple had no idea what to do, and just left it. When they connected with me earlier this month and told me their story, I began looking at the processes followed by the BDM team and the advice provided to my clients (or not, as the case turned out to be). Initially I'd hoped that if the documents were initially accepted in October, the notice period would have passed. When told no, they had not been accepted and the clients were not told about the local regional courthouse option, I decided to pursue shortening of time.
I felt the clients had been given a huge "bum steer" for want of a better term, and deserved much better advice than they got. Had they been given the right advice and assistance to arrange it, they would have been married a month later at the regional courthouse.
I supplied a thoroughly researched support letter using error in giving notice by the BDM NSW ceremony booking team as the reason for the request, supported by the couple's paper trail and my argument that the team should have provided advice and assistance to enable my couple to marry at the regional courthouse.
Off my clients went to the courthouse in the nearest regional urban centre to seek a shortening of time. The Registrar there was the prescribed authority that could provide permission for my couple to marry under the notice period, and, under normal circumstances, would have married them at the courthouse if they'd been told of that option. The Registrar considered the request and agreed that the couple had been given the wrong information, indicating my support letter was very thorough and comprehensive.
Shortening of time was granted, and later that night I married the couple at their home. They were very grateful for my assistance.
It was an interesting experience for me to follow this through, and I guess my skill and experience from 18 years in the industry certainly helped me know what "rabbit holes" to explore, what questions to ask the BDM when I followed up with them, and just not backing down when a narrative was presented to me that was, frankly, unacceptable.
Government bodies must do better - especially when dealing with regional clients. Things are different out in the bush, and people living in rural, regional and remote areas deserve better.
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