Living together is about to get more serious in Australia, where the federal government has introduced legislation that will treat de facto relationships (including same sex) in exactly the same way as marriage. That may please some people — until they consider what may happen to their property if their relationship breaks up after two years. At present, de facto couples have their disputes over children settled in the Family Court, while disputes over property are settled in the District Court. The proposed law would bring property settlements into the Family Court, where “future needs” relating to income, health and childcare can be taken into account.
“Marriage is being imposed on everyone whether they like it or not,” says Patrick Parkinson, professor of law at the University of Sydney. “It will come as a shock to some people.” He believes the “future needs” provision may be harmful to young people without children. It appears that even those who entered a relationship intending to keep their assets separate will find that the court can combine their assets and divide them according to “contributions” and “future needs”. New Zealand has had a similar law since 2002. ~ Sydney Morning Herald, August 4