A same-sex union in Australia is one type of de facto relationship. Under Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975, a de facto relationship is a relationship between two persons, whether of the same or opposite sex, who live together on a genuine domestic basis.
These two persons must not be legally married to each other or related to the family. Ever since a de facto relationship has been recognized by the Family Law Act 1975, the same-sex union enjoys almost all the same rights of a married couple.
First of all, partners can also apply for orders concerning financial matters just like a married couple. The application can be filed with the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court. Financial matters include enforcement of binding financial agreements, spousal maintenance, and adjustment of property settlements.
A partner in a union can also apply for property settlement. With these cases, the parties need to prove that they were in a de facto relationship and that they filed the application within two years from the breakdown of the relationship.
The laws of the states and territories will apply when it comes to adoption by same-sex couples. Tasmania, New South Wales, Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia allow adoption by same-sex partners. Queensland allows gay or lesbian singles to adopt but does not allow adoption for the same-sex couple.
Same-sex partners may be recognized as parents depending on the applicable law of their state or territory. Same-sex partners may become parents through assisted or artificial conception, and surrogacy. The same-sex couple must check their state or territory law first to know whether both of the partners will qualify to become parents or only one of them, or if they need to resort to adoption or parenting orders.
Children of same-sex couples and their carers are entitled to child support. So, partners have the responsibility to financially support their children such that a partner in the same-sex union can institute an action for child support. Unlike with a property settlement, an application for child support can be filed anytime. The partner whose name appears in the child’s birth certificate automatically becomes liable for child support.
Partners of the same sex union have the personality to apply for parenting orders. These orders are meant to provide for the parenting arrangements of a child of the same sex union. The parenting orders will normally specify with whom the child will live with and who the child will spend time or communicate with.
However, in some places in Australia, a sex partner can apply for a parenting order not as a parent but as a person who is concerned for the care, welfare and development of a child.
The Australian Government has consistently promoted and worked towards equal treatment for same-sex unions. Some of the benefits enjoyed by partners in same-sex unions now enjoy tax concessions, bereavement benefits if a partner dies, war widow or widower’s pensions, Medicare safety nets as a family, social security and family assistance.