The Rudd Government has today introduced landmark legislation to allow for de facto couples to access the federal family law courts on property and maintenance matters. This implements a 2002 agreement between the Commonwealth, States and Territories at the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General.
"These reforms are long overdue. They will provide greater protection for separating de facto couples and simplify the laws that apply," Attorney-General Robert McClelland said.
Mr McClelland said, "Currently, de facto couples can access the federal family law courts for child-related proceedings but must go to State and Territory courts for property and maintenance matters. This duplication wastes time and money and places an unnecessary administrative and financial burden on de facto couples. Moreover, existing State and Territory laws on property and maintenance matters for de facto couples are inconsistent across Australia, meaning couples in different States and Territories have different rights".
The amendments will apply to de facto relationships that break down after the amendments commence in the States that have referred power to the Commonwealth and in the Territories.
Mr McClelland said, "This honours a commitment in the Government's National Platform to ensure that family law applies in a consistent and uniform way to de facto relationships. Consistent with the Government's policy, the legislation will not discriminate between opposite-sex and same-sex de facto couples. Nothing in the legislation will alter marriage laws."
"Separating de facto couples and their children have waited for six years for the Commonwealth to act. The Rudd Government has delivered this significant reform."