What you should know about same-sex marriage
Now that Australia has become the 26th country worldwide to legislate to allow same sex marriage, what actual changes will this mean in Australia?
Following changes to the Family Law Act that were made in 2008, the Family Courts already had the necessary powers to deal with property settlement disputes between de-facto couples, including same sex couples. Same sex couples were also able to sign Binding Financial Agreements as a result of previous changes to the Family Law Act.
It has been a long held principle that the best interests of a child are the highest priority in parenting disputes so permitting same sex marriage will mean no change to how parenting orders are decided by the Court.
Perhaps the two areas where same sex marriage may make a difference are in proving a relationship exists, and for divorce.
A marriage certificate is clear proof of the existence of a relationship. In matters of inheritance or citizenship or when dealing with official bodies or service providers, it can be quite onerous to meet the requirements to prove that a relationship exists. Being able to produce a marriage certificate will be much more straightforward as a means of dealing with this point.
The other area where this change will make a difference is with divorce. As well as enabling same sex marriage, this change to the law also permits same sex divorce. Approximately 4 in 10 marriages in Australia currently end in divorce. The average length of a marriage at the time of divorce is 12 years (2016 figures from the ABS).
So whilst it may be a few years before we see the first divorces of same sex couples who were married in Australia we may see some divorces of same sex marriages where the marriage took place overseas before that.