De Facto and Same-Sex Relationships
Tasmanian law: significant relationships
De facto relationships are called ‘Significant Relationships’ under Tasmanian law. This includes same-sex couples. By registering a relationship, and receiving a Deed of Relationship, a couple have immediate access to relationship rights, and do not need to prove the existence of the relationship to a court.
The Relationships Act 2003 (Tas) provides for the registration of other types of relationships that will attract certain rights much like significant relationships. These are called ‘caring relationships’, and have to do with the provision of domestic support and personal care between two people. People in significant relationships can access the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court to resolve disputes concerning property and financial resources, as well as children, while those in a caring relationship can access the Tasmanian Magistrates Court and Supreme Court to resolve property disputes. The Family Court of Australia (FCA) and the Federal Circuit Court (FCC) recognise significant relationships.
Federal law: de facto relationships
Under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), de facto relationships are still called ‘de facto relationships’. Whilst same-sex marriage is not recognised in Australia, amendments to federal law in Australia mean that same-sex couples are recognised as de facto couples, and have the same rights as de facto couples. Eighty-four Commonwealth Acts were amended to include same-sex couples in the rights associated with heterosexual de facto relationships. Important areas of amendment included: tax, superannuation, PBS and Medicare benefits, aged care, veteran’s entitlements, social security, immigration, evidence, child support, workers compensation, employment entitlements and family law.
Partners in de facto relationships who separated after 1 May 2009 can now access the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Circuit Court to resolve disputes about property or financial resources, as well as issues to do with the care and control of children. In order to establish a de facto relationship to the satisfaction of the court, the relationship must have been registered, or the relationship must be established as being of 2 years duration, or there must be a child of the relationship. Partners who separated before 1 May 2009 will still have any issues around children resolved under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (FLA), but property disputes will go to state courts, unless the parties agree to have the financial issues resolved under the FLA.