Considering the legalities of your relationship can feel a little weird and clinical; after all, it’s all about love, right? That said, there are moments in every long-term relationship when you need to be aware of your legal rights and obligations – be it for tax purposes, health reasons or during a break-up situation. The legal recognition of same-sex relationships has evolved rapidly during the last decade, so it’s fair enough if you are feeling a little confused regarding your rights.
However, it’s actually not as complicated as it might seem. Here’s what you need to know:
Same-Sex Relationships are fully legally recognised.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Australia since December 2017; however, even if you are not married to your partner, your relationship has the same legal validity as any other de facto relationship. You can make your de facto relationship extra official by registering a civil union or domestic partnership, if you choose. In any case, you have the same legal rights and obligations as heterosexual couples.
Rights and Obligations While You’re in a Relationship
Since 2008, the Australian government no longer discriminates against same-sex couples and their children when it comes to everyday legalities. That means if you are living together, sharing expenses and familial responsibilities (i.e. shared children, pets, mortgage etc.), your relationship is subject to the same laws as any other de facto relationship or marriage. That means:
- you have to report to social services as a couple (i.e. disclose your partner/wife’s income when applying for any government assistance)
- you are entitled to include your partner/wife in your will and as a beneficiary of your superannuation
- both of you will appear on your child/children’s birth certificate, registered as “mother” and “parent”, if they were conceived through invitro fertilisation
- you can grant your partner/wife power of attorney regarding your affairs and vice versa
- you can grant your partner/wife statutory health authority and vice versa
- you have equal parental responsibility
- you can sponsor your partner/wife in case of immigration and vice versa
- you are able to adopt and/or foster children
Rights and Obligations in case of Separation or Divorce
If you are in a same-sex marriage, you have the exact same rights and responsibilities when going through a divorce as any other married couple. You will have to go through the process of property division and, if you have children, make custody arrangements suitable to your respective situations.
It used to be a different story for de facto relationships; however, since 2009 de facto couples separating may apply for a property settlement provided:
- they have been living together for two years or more
- one partner has contributed significantly to the joint property (financial or otherwise)
- you have shared children
In case of separation/divorce you and your partner/wife will both still have parental rights and responsibilities, provided you both appear on the child/children’s birth certificate.
If domestic violence has occurred during your relationship/marriage, you can apply for domestic violence orders and are entitled to protection and legal representation.