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How does the Reform of the Marriage Act Benefit me?

Corey Gauci

On 9 December 2017, the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) was amended to redefine “marriage” as the ‘union of 2 people to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life’. Apart from the fact that same-sex couples are now treated as equal citizens when it comes to marriage, there are several other far-reaching important legal benefits as well. Here are 3 key benefits which have come about as a result of the recent reform of the Marriage Act:

Being able to get married

Previously, if a same sex couple travelled overseas to get married and then returned home to Australia, and subsequently separated, they could not get divorced. For example, if a same-sex couple who worked and lived in Australia travelled to New Zealand for a short trip to get married and then return to Australia they would have previously been unable to legally divorce in either New Zealand or Australia. In Australia, their marriage was not legally recognised and in New Zealand they wouldn’t have meet the requirements to apply for divorce, because they did not, and have never, lived there. Same-sex couples however are now able to apply to the Federal Circuit Court for a divorce order, provided that the couple meet the threshold requirements.

 

Being a legal ‘parent’ to their non-biological child

Previously under the Family Law Act, if a married woman becomes pregnant using IVF, and her Husband consents to that procedure, then he is considered a legal parent of that child. However, if a same sex couple uses the same process, and they later separate, the non-biological parent would then need to prove that he/she was in a de facto relationship with the biological parent at the time of IVF to be deemed a parent.

The reform of the Marriage Act, by allowing same-sex couples to marry, the non-biological parent is now legally a parent if the couple have children by IVF. They no longer have to go through the ordeal of having to prove the very existence of their relationship to obtain the legal parent status of an IVF baby.

Entitlement to make a property claim

Just like having to prove their relationship to be a ‘parent’ of an IVF baby, same sex couples have to prove that they were in a ‘de facto relationship’, and that the relationship met the criteria under the law, before they can make a property claim. Married couples on the other hand, don’t have to provide evidence of the existence of their relationship. Being married, takes away one of the legal hurdles people have to navigate.

The reform of the Marriage Act has significantly improved conditions for same sex couples. If you are in a same-sex relationship, and want more information on family law, marriage equality or same sex divorce to obtain a Divorce, contact our family law team on (02) 8987 0000 or by email at ajenkins@aitkenlawyers.com.au.

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