Additional protection for de facto couples

Date: Aug 08, 2010
Document Type: Article

The Family Law Act 1975 has now been amended to allow opposite-sex and same-sex de facto couples access to the federal family law courts for property and maintenance matters.

The amendments also include changes relating to financial agreements between married couples and superannuation splitting and an amendment to the provision of certificates for family dispute resolution.

The main objective of the amendments is to extend to de facto relationships the financial settlement regime under the Family Law Act 1975 that was previously only available to married couples to parties.

The conferring of the State and Territory powers to the Federal Government is aimed at implementing a nationally consistent financial settlement regime to minimise jurisdictional disputes and the uncertainties that may impede settlement of these matters under the previous State and Territory laws.

In addition, the amendments also offer de facto couples access to the family law system for determination of their financial matters arising from a relationship breakdown. This allows for one court to deal in the one proceeding with financial and child-related matters arising between separated de facto couples.

To achieve uniformity in financial settlement matters the amendments confer jurisdiction on federal courts to allow these courts to make orders in proceedings covered by the definition of ‘de facto financial cause’. The new ‘de facto financial cause” provides jurisdiction for de facto matters in all financial matters previously only available under the Family Law Act between parties to a marriage, such as proceedings for the distribution of property or financial resources, or for the provision of maintenance between parties to a de facto relationship, and proceedings involving third parties, binding financial agreements and related bankruptcy matters.

The Act now states that a person is in a de facto relationship with another person if they are not married, or related to each other by family where, having regard to all the circumstances of the relationship, they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.
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