No doubt about it, we’re a multicultural nation.

To prove the point, Australia was recently ranked as the second most multicultural nation in the world, after Luxembourg.

Almost 50% of Australia’s population was either born overseas or has a parent who was born abroad.

But how has this cultural diversity affected marriage, separation and divorce in Australia?

It is a question that affects many Australians. Almost half of Australian marriages involve at least one spouse born overseas. And about 70% of immigrants to Australia marry outside their own ethnic group which contributes to the ethnic melting pot that is Australia.

Many multi-ethnic marriages are strengthened and enriched by the interest and respect each partner takes in their spouses’ culture. And their commitment to raise their children with knowledge and involvement in both party’s culture, language and traditions.

But marrying someone outside your culture can bring some additional challenges and tensions. And when such marriages fail, there can be extra problems in working out a settlement and resolution.

The situation varies between cultures. Divorce is a taboo subject in many cultures, however, and cultural values will play a role in the decisions they make and how they make them.

Usually, in stressful situations, an individual will revert to the values and behaviours influenced by their culture.

The Family Law Act does have something to say on multicultural issues following separation. This is, that children have a right to enjoy and participate in the culture and communities of both their parents. This needs to be taken into account in working out parenting arrangements.

Sometimes, where a man or woman belongs to a culture that considers divorce as badly reflecting on their reputation or that of the extended family, they may become convinced they need to do whatever they can to ‘rescue the reputation of the family’ and to ‘save face’.

Much will also depend on who is influencing their decisions at the time of brokering the divorce.

If for example, they have a sense of obligation to the matriarch or patriarch of their family, then it is also important to consider what their cultural values might be.

Whilst some may see it best to salvage the marriage at all costs, others may see a prompt end to it as the best resolution for everyone.

The lesson for lawyers, mediators and judges is that it is important to be informed and have a sensitivity to the various cultural issues which the parties bring to their separation.

This can be of great benefit in assisting the parties to a good resolution of their family law disputes, for themselves and their children.


Andrew Corish is an Accredited Specialist in Family Law with Corish & Co Specialist Family Lawyers North Sydney