Overseas same-sex relationships recognised in NSW

Date: Dec 03, 2014

New South Wales has taken another step towards marriage equality, with the state now recognising same-sex marriages that have been entered into overseas in the relationship register.

The relationship register provides a level of protection for individuals who are looking to protect their relationship legally and is an important area of family law. The register has been available for couples since 2010, but until this change occurred, it wasn't possible for same-sex couples who married outside of Australia to register.

Independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, who introduced the Relationships Register Amendment (Recognition of Same-sex and Gender-diverse Relationships) Bill 2014 (NSW), emphasised the importance of this change for couples.

"Under these changes, same sex couples who marry overseas will be able to reflect their marital status on relevant forms and will no longer have to declare that they are not married," Mr Greenwich reportedly stated.

"The eligibility section of the guide for couples will also be updated to clarify that same sex couples who marry overseas are eligible to register their relationship."

This change isn't the only development in the push for equal marriage across Australia, with Norfolk Island recently pushing for same-sex marriage to be made legal. If that decision is finalised, the territory could be the first part of Australia to establish marriage equality permanently.

What is the process for registering a relationship?

The NSW relationship register has a number of steps that need to be undertaken by any couple that is looking to have their relationship legally recognised. Along with processing costs and personal identification, there are a few other vital pieces of information that need to be included.

The first step for individuals is to make a statutory declaration which states that they want to register their relationship; that they are in a relationship as a couple with another person; and that they are neither married nor part an existing relationship.

Couples will also have to confirm their relationship is unique to the state - at least one party must be a permanent resident of NSW. Neither party will be able to register their relationship in another state.

Following the initial application, there is a 28-day cooling off period during which individuals can withdraw their application to enter a formal relationship.

Once this time period has elapsed, and assuming all of the submitted paperwork is in order, the Registrar will enter the relationship into the register.

What about removing a relationship from the register?

Once a relationship has been confirmed in this manner, it is still possible to remove it from the register if the relationship breaks down. For couples in this situation, they will need to apply, either individually or together, to have the relationship removed.

After serving notice to have the relationship removed, there is another cooling off period - with this one 90 days long.

A relationship will also be removed from the registry if the documents used to support the application were fraudulent or obtained by improper means. Upon the death of one party, the relationship will also end.

If you are looking to register a relationship in NSW, either as a same-sex or heterosexual couple, it is important to seek legal advice during this process. Talking to a family lawyer will be essential, as they will have the experience to handle the process of registering a relationship, while also advising on any other legal aspects of your relationship.