families minister, believes that de facto relationships are too unstable and is urging couples to formalise their relationship through marriage
de facto relationships have improved their legal status in australia over the last few decades, even to the point that child and financial matters after a break up are treated in the same way as divorced couples by the courts.
This means that if one person in the relationship is left alone that person can ensure that he or she gets treated equally when it comes to the division of communal assets or share in the care of children.
Families Minister Kevin Andrew, however, believes that de facto relationships are too unstable and is urging couples to formalise their relationship through marriage. He is suggesting that marriage is more likely to lengthen a relationship. As a result of this he is offering to both de facto and married partners a $200 relationship counselling voucher. So far, 2,982 couples have taken up his offer, including a number of couples who have passed the age of 70, but it is the 25-34 age group that is most willing to take advantage of the government’s cash incentive.
Mr Andrews claims that for older women in particular divorcing could throw them into poverty, particularly if they are not due any superannuation. Mr Andrews implies that separation is more likely to take place amongst de facto couples and with the number of couples living together out of marriage in 2012 to four in five there is less stability in relationships overall and children are the first to suffer. Financial hardships occur frequently in these situations too, amounting to as much as $60,000 per relationship with women being the hardest hit.
Men are seemingly taking advantage of the acceptance of de facto relationships and fail to commit sufficiently to ensure the persistence of a stable relationship. Mr Andrews is not only concerned about the emotional turmoil involved in the breakdown of a relationship. He is concerned that the government often has to pick up the pieces financially when one of the partners who was financially dependent on a partner loses their means of support. This is one of the main reasons for his $200 counselling programme so that partners can be offered assistance in strengthening their relationship. This he hopes will have an impact on how much the government is paying out on family breakdown.
Mr Andrews is insistent that he is not influencing how people choose to behave in relationships, as he says that’s up to them. He is merely trying to see a way of intervening and supporting relationships before it’s too late. The minister views marriage as a better sign of commitment than a de facto relationship.
The percentage of Australians who now live in a facto relationships increased by 25 per cent between 2001 and 2006, reaching 1.1 million, with the majority of relationships not involving marriage. The highest number of de facto relationships occurs between the ages of 25 and 29 years, while statistics indicate that even though the divorce legislation of 2009 has allowed no fault divorce, rates are now stable since a surge after the amendments were passed. Marriages are also persisting for longer periods of time at an average of 12.3 years.
Mr. Andrews believes that de facto partners suffer financially when they separate, particularly women, but since March 1st 2009 an ex de facto partner has the same rights as an ex marriage partner when it comes to solving disputes regarding children and financial matters after the separation has taken place and these can be dealt with fairly by the Federal Circuit Court or Family Court. This includes the adjusting of shared property or organising maintenance after a de facto relationship has ceased. An important requirement is that it is necessary to file a financial order no later than two years after the relationship breakdown.
When taking up a financial dispute with the court or a maintenance issue for an ex de facto partner and/or children, it will be necessary to prove the status of the relationship. One of the ways this can be achieved is by getting witnesses to complete affidavits that can be presented to the court. Seeking advice from an experienced family lawyer will ensure that your de facto status qualifies for dispute resolution with either the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court.
Disclaimer : This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice. It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer.