The Rudd Government is planning to give same-sex couples and families access to the Family Court of Australia to resolve financial matters following the breakdown of a relationship.
The Attorney-General’s office has confirmed to Sydney Star Observer that Family Court access would not be included in the equality reforms announced last week, but it was on the agenda.
Most states have already referred powers. We won’t be waiting for South Australia and Western Australia on this. We’re looking to have this done sooner rather than later, a spokesman for the Attorney-General said.
Tasmania and the ACT have also not yet referred de facto property dispute powers to the Commonwealth.
Same-sex and opposite-sex de facto couples can already use the Family Court to resolve child-related issues, but must launch separate proceedings in state courts for financial settlements.
Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes argued in his Same Sex: Same Entitlements report that the discrimination was detrimental to same-sex couples because State courts couldn’t include superannuation or consider past contributions like homemaking when making property adjustments.
The Family Court also had powers to issue injunctions against third parties, such as family companies and creditors.
The former Howard government planned to give opposite-sex couples access to the Family Court to resolve financial matters in 2003, but failed to do so while in office.
Innes warned that the move would make same-sex couples the only group of people denied access to the Federal property division regime.
Same-sex couples with children will also face the additional cost and inconvenience of having to access two jurisdictions, Innes wrote.
Western Australia has its own Family Court, where same-sex couples can already have parenting and financial matters resolved in a single application.
Several recommendations of the NSW Law Reform Commission report into relationships released last month will not be adopted by the State Government in anticipation of the Rudd Government amending the jurisdiction of the Family Court to hear de facto property matters.