Marriage equality: On 8 December 2017 Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull signed into Law the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017.
For those people who are in relationships that aren’t heterosexual, the effect of the Act is huge. The Act gives the same rights, regarding marriage, to ALL people, but the biggest right it allows is choice.
To really understand the impact, the terms must be understood. A De Facto couple is two people in a relationship. They can be: in a registered relationship; have lived together in a genuine domestic relationship; or lived together for less than two years, but have a child together. Marriage on the other hand, is two people (until recently, one male and one female) who are married.
Married couples never have to prove they are in a relationship – their relationship is proven through the existence of the marriage certificate, regardless of whether or not they live together, or have any ‘relationship’ at all. De facto couples must prove their relationship through photos; intertwined financial arrangements, such as joint loans, bank accounts, etc; testimony of others in the community, family members or friends.
Marriage equality gives parties many rights, all of which are also available to de facto couples. The difference between married and de facto couples, is how they are allowed to exercise those rights.
Problems have routinely arisen when a member of a de facto couple becomes ill or dies. De facto couples must prove they’re in a relationship before they can be allowed to give instructions regarding health-related decisions; if a partner dies, the other is not automatically listed on the death certificate, can’t claim superannuation payouts, or even make funeral arrangements.
Another issue relating to Australia previously not allowing same-sex couples to marry impacted the transgender community. If a party to a marriage, wanted to transition, they could not do so, without divorcing – forcing many loving couples had to divorce, or one party had to live in psychological distress in order to stay married. With the changes to the Marriage Act, this will now no longer be a problem.
De facto couples who are not heterosexual tend to face more issues, because of social or family acceptance, therefore making their relationship harder to prove. Marriage equality removes these problems. Marriage relationships aren’t questioned and there’s no need to prove the relationship exists.
De facto couples face other issues as well, including but not limited to:
- The differing laws relating to de facto couples in each state;
- The definition of de facto couple, for example as soon as you move in together you are considered to be in a de facto relationship for Centrelink purposes, but for access to other rights, you either need to have lived together for two years or have a child together;
- Property settlement time limits upon the end of a relationship – these are different for married and de facto couples, being one year from divorce for married couples, or two years from the date of separation for de facto couples. The issue here is, that married couples can, by agreement extend their time limit after divorce, where de facto couples cannot;
- When couples use IVF to have children, married couples are both recorded as the parents, where are de facto couples must prove their relationship, before they can be listed on the birth certificate;
- Immigration, gaining residency or working rights overseas is much more difficult in a de facto relationship;
- Understanding – all countries have some form of marriage and understand what that means; and
- Obligations – All obligations faced by married couples, are also faced and required by de facto couples.
De facto relationships are not just relationships for members of the LGBTIQ+ community. Heterosexual people, who are not married can also be in de facto relationships, however, have the choice not to be. Members of the LGBTIQ+ community have not, until 8 December 2017, had this choice. They were ‘allowed’ by the law to be in a de facto relationship, or to not be in a serious long-term relationship.
Now that all consenting adults have the right to marry one another, those people in de facto relationships will only be in them by their own choice, and those who chose to be married will do away with their need to prove their relationship in times of high stress, grief, and intense joy.
With all these new automatic and assumed rights, you might need some help navigating them. The team at Cornerstone Law Offices can help you understand the implications of marriage equality and your choices.
If you’re thinking of getting married on 8 January 2018, or any date thereafter, and need advice on Financial Agreements, Parenting Matters, Wills, or Estates, call us for advice.
If you’re choosing to remain in a de facto relationship and want to know how to protect your assets, and or arrange for parenting matters, we can help with those too.
If you were married internationally and because of Australian law have previously not be able to divorce, and your relationship has ended, we can help you.
Call Cornerstone Law Offices on 1300 267 637 for a confidential consultation (or contact us by clicking here).