Property and financial matters upon the breakdown of de facto relationships

Property and financial matters upon the breakdown of de facto relationships

Rachel Carson

CFCA Paper No. 24 — September 2014
Property and financial matters upon the breakdown of de facto relationships

Please note: The content of this paper is intended only to provide general information in summary form. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal and other professional advice should be sought by you or your organisation.

Key messages

The 2009 reforms to the Family Law Act (Cth) brought most Australian same-sex and opposite-sex de facto couples within the federal family law system for the resolution of their property and financial matters upon separation.

The reforms introduced a definition of de facto relationship and provided guidance to assist in determining whether a de facto relationship may be said to exist.

The reforms enable access to property settlement and maintenance for most separated de facto couples in terms substantially the same as those available for married couples.

The reforms enable most de facto couples to enter into Binding Financial Agreements, prior to commencing their relationship, during their relationship and upon separation.

The reforms were aimed at extending the federal family law property and financial settlements regime to opposite-sex and same-sex de facto couples. They received strong support but have also been subject to criticism, including on the basis of their imposition of the consequences of marriage upon people who have made a conscious decision not to marry.

Reforms introduced in 2009 to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) have meant that most same-sex and opposite-sex de facto couples (in all states and territories except Western Australia) who end their relationships can now have their property and financial matters dealt with in substantially the same way as married people. This paper aims to provide non-legal professionals in the family law sector with a general outline of the relevant reforms, their genesis, and the arguments in favour of and against their introduction.

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Authors and Acknowledgements

Rachel Carson is a Research Fellow with the Family Law and Family Violence team at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The author wishes to acknowledge Rhys Price-Robertson, Elly Robinson, Dr Nicola Ross, Dr Grania Sheehan and Dr Dorothy Kovacs for their valuable feedback on earlier drafts of this paper. Appreciation is also extended to Dr Rae Kaspiew, Dr Dary Higgins, Professor Alan Hayes and Shaun Lohoar of the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The feature image is by Images Money, CC BY 2.0

Publication details

CFCA Paper
No. 24
Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, September 2014.
17 pp.
ISSN: 
2200-4106
ISBN: 
978-1-922038-64-7

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