Same Sex Laws and Cohabitation
Lesbian and gay male couples now have the same rights as de facto heterosexuals under the Family Law Act.
Same sex cohabitation agreements, now covered by Federal law, can be dealt with in the Family Court, as can issues concerning children, superannuation, property and maintenance in the event of a relationship breakdown.
Gay male and lesbian couples now have the same access to informal dispute resolution systems. All you have to show is that you have are a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis, with a mutual commitment to a shared life. Common residence is more important than a sexual relationship, so it is theoretically possible that a person can be married in, say, Brisbane and still be in a de-facto same sex relationship in Perth. You'd find it hard to prove, but by no means impossible: marriage to one person does not mean that you can't be de-facto with someone else and it's also possible to have several de-facto relationships at the one time if there's enough period of time spent in common residence on a genuine domestic basis.
There's a bit of "hit and miss", as there is with divorces. One simple way for same-sex couples, especially if they live in areas where they are in fear of outing themselves and don't wish to register a relationship, is to sign a Binding Financial Agreement.
Binding Financial Agreements allow you to decide how you will distribute your property or financial resources or maintain each other in the event that your relationship breaks down.
These agreements can be made before, during or after a de facto relationship and generally these bind the Court and keep the matters in the agreement out of litigation. Separation is stressful enough as it is without added cost and stress over court processes.
By Ian Macleod