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IAFL Global Comparison of LGBT Laws

The International Academy of Family Lawyers, of which Vanessa Mathews is a Fellow, has published a global survey of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender laws (LGBT laws), the results of which can be found here https://www.iafl.com/media/5336/2019-iafl-lgbt-survey.pdf.

The IAFL LGBT Committee stated ‘Laws affecting LGBT people vary greatly by country or jurisdiction. There are now 28 jurisdictions that accept same sex marriage, however gay sex remains illegal in many jurisdictions with the death penalty still applying in 14.

The International Academy of Family Lawyers (“IAFL”) supports all efforts towards full equality of the LGBT community throughout the world and the end to rules that unfairly discriminate against such individuals and, in many countries, criminalize countless couples because of the ones they love. There remains a lot of work to be done.
The work done by some fellows of the IAFL is having a real impact and changing for the better the lives of LGBT people. The LGBT Committee of the IAFL commissioned this survey to capitalize on the knowledge and expertise of some members for the benefit of the IAFL as a whole and the LGBT community.

The individual submissions in this survey are the work of fellows of the IAFL who have kindly donated their time and expertise to answer the same questions as set out below. Each of the contributor’s names and contact details are included.

The LGBT Committee intends that this should be a living resource. We are asking those who have already kindly donated their time to keep us informed as laws change in their jurisdictions. We have detailed submissions from 46 jurisdictions, however, there remains a good number of jurisdictions not covered where the IAFL has fellows. If your jurisdiction is not covered and you feel able to complete a survey, please get in touch with the IAFL.’

Congratulations to the IAFL LGBT committee members for preparing such a comprehensive review of comparative laws.

Financial loss during a relationship – case note

In the recent Family Court case of Anaya & Anaya [2019] FCCA 1048, the principle in the long established case of Kowaliw and Kowaliw was re-affirmed that:

As a statement of general principle, I am firmly of the view that financial losses incurred by parties or either of them in the course of a marriage whether such losses result from a joint or several liability, should be shared by them (although not necessarily equally) except in the following circumstances:

  1. Where one of the parties has embarked upon a course of conduct designed to reduce or minimise the effective value or worth of matrimonial assets; or
  2. Where one of the parties has acted recklessly, negligently or wantonly with matrimonial assets, the overall effect of which has reduced or minimise d their value.

In Anaya, the husband argued that investment funds (including an inheritance of $1,000,000) ‘lost’ by the wife should be ‘added back’ to the asset pool and treated as an advance on her property settlement. The wife argued that the losses were a matter to be taken into account generally and to have them ‘added back’ to the asset pool would likely result in hardship to her.

His Honour held that at the time the wife decided to enter into the high risk investment she was likely to have been depressed and angry at the husband about their separation but that her decision to do so was reckless and fell within the second category of Kowaliw. The wife’s awareness was exacerbated by the timing of her decisions – after Family Court proceedings had commenced and she had legal representation.

I often have clients ask me to seek redress for losses ‘caused’ by their former partner, for example, the reduced value of their share portfolio or investment in a now worthless time-share resort. For the majority, my answer is no, that these losses were incurred in the course of the marriage but for some however, the answer is ‘yes’, for example, money lost due to gambling.

It is important that each significant financial ‘win’ and ‘loss’ experienced during the marriage is objectively assessed in the context of its surrounding circumstances. An emotional assessment may be misguided and result in unrealistic expectations by the aggrieved client.

I am available to assist with this task – by offering an objective and realistic assessment of your client’s complex property settlements.

Please contact me on vanessam@mflaw.com.au or 9804 7991 if you would like to discuss your client’s situation.

Or have your client contact me to arrange a free initial 15 minute telephone consultation.

Re-partnering After Separation, Divorce

Second marriages, partnerships, step-families present challenges, new opportunities after separation, divorce

Relationships Australia has prepared this informative summary about challenges and complication of re-partnering after separation, divorce.

In second partnerships, couples are often more aware of the difficulties in establishing a successful relationship and are more committed to making the marriage work.

Both second marriages and step-families have to overcome some difficult hurdles. These hurdles can present significant challenges to the couple in their relationship as partners and as parents.

Unfortunately, many second marriages and step-families, despite their commitment to making things work, fail to get over these hurdles.

This page outlines some of the challenges and complications of re-partnering and step-families.

The decision to re-marry or re-partner

Before you re-marry or re-partner, you should consider the following questions:

  • When?
  • Why?
  • To Whom?

Listen to any doubts. If necessary, wait a little longer

When?

The simple answer is after you have fully come to terms with the end of your previous relationship.  This is particularly important if you did not want the first marriage to end, and had to deal with the pain of leaving or being left by your previous partner.  It takes longer than many people expect to get over the end of a long term relationship, even if you were unhappy and felt that the end was inevitable.

Some studies suggest many people take at least two years to adjust to the end of a long term relationship. There are many exceptions to this. Some people take longer, others adjust more rapidly. Ask yourself:

  • Do I find myself thinking about my ex-partner and do these thoughts still arouse strong feelings such as anger and resentment?
  • Have I adjusted to living alone again?
  • Have I regained a sense of self-confidence?
  • Can I look back on that relationship and recognise some of the things that contributed to its breakdown?

In other words, am I emotionally free to re-partner? Can I put all my emotional energy into this new relationship without allowing my feelings about my previous relationship to get in the way?

Just as you cannot re-marry until you are legally free to do so, being emotionally free to re-marry is also important.

Why?

Unfortunately this question is often overlooked. Are you thinking of re-marrying or re- partnering because you want to be with someone whom you love or do you want to re-marry or re-partner for the sake of being in a relationship, or to provide a two-parent home for your children?  Being alone is not easy after being married or in a long-term relationship, especially if you have children living with you.  However, moving too rapidly into a new relationship can create a new set of problems.

To whom?

Past experiences influence our choice of partners.  This is especially true of a second marriage.  Be realistic about what worked and what didn’t work in your first marriage when making a decision about a new partner.  Learn from that experience to clarify what sort of partner you want.

Being in love is not enough to make a relationship work especially once the initial excitement has worn off.

The following organizations offer separation, divorce counselling:

Family Relationships Centre:  http://www.familyrelationships.gov.au/searchpages/searchpage.aspx?KEYWORD=frc%20not%20pop&RESOURCETYPES=Service

Relationships Australia: http://www.relationships.org.au/what-we-do/services/counselling

CatholicCare: http://www.ccam.org.au/

Family Mediation Centrehttps://www.fmc.org.au/marriage-counselling.php?gclid=Cj0KEQiAqK-zBRC2zaXc8MOiwfIBEiQAXPHrXsvDPeRotm4nM6DHg4zIk5QIa_fiidlbpIzCf9gbUlYaAoXl8P8HAQ

Three in the bed: You, your de facto, and the Family Court

When the Australian states referred their powers to legislate about the property of de facto couples (same sex and opposite sex) to the Commonwealth at the turn of the decade, the question of what constituted a de facto relationship under the new legislation became the subject of much debate and, consequently, litigation.

The lay understanding of the term “de facto” tends to assume that there is a single identifying factor or test: for example, you have to live together and both be on the lease, you have to be in a relationship for more than two years, or you have to declare your relationship to Centrelink or the ATO.

As is often the case, however, the legal reality of the situation is not so clear cut.

The definition of a “de facto relationship” can be found in section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 and in brief requires that:

  1. parties to a relationship are not legally married to each other;
  2. parties to a relationship are not related by family; and
  3. having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.

It is the word “circumstances” in this third point upon which the discussion turns. The legislation goes on to list a number of circumstances that may (but not necessarily) be of relevance:

  1. the duration of the relationship;
  2. the nature and extent of the parties’ common residence;
  3. whether a sexual relationship exists;
  4. the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between the parties;
  5. the ownership, use and acquisition of the parties’ property;
  6. the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  7. whether the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory as a prescribed kind of relationship;
  8. the care and support of children;
  9. the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

Having listed the above factors, however, the legislation goes on to specify that not one of them is a prerequisite for the Court finding that a de facto relationship exists: instead, the importance of each factor should be determined by the Court in the particular “circumstances” of the case.

The effect of these sections is to give the Court a wide ranging discretion to determine each situation as the judicial officer deems appropriate. Understandably, this causes consternation in our mutual clients who often struggle to determine whether or not their relationship should be considered a “de facto”, along with the legal, taxation and other ramifications that such a status brings.

It may seem to go against “common sense”, but recent de facto litigation has shown us that a de facto relationship can, based on the above, be found to exist where one (or both) parties to the relationship is already married to another person, where the parties do not and have not lived together, or even where there has not been any sexual intimacy between them.

While it continues to be an area of law that finds its basis in judicial discretion, the issue of classifying de facto relationships will present a potential minefield for parties and their legal and financial advisors. Armed with knowledge of these pitfalls, however, prudent practitioners will be in a position to ensure that these issues are addressed at a time when asset protection and planning remain an option, and certainly before the horse has bolted and the intimate details of the parties’ personal lives are aired before the Family Law Courts.

De Facto Relationships – The Details

In Australia, the law affords some protection to couples that have chosen not to get married, yet lead the life of a married couple, including same-sex relationships. Whether you chose not go get married out of convenience, or for religious reasons, you can take comfort in knowing that should you separate, you are entitled to similar protection under the law as if you were married.

It is worth noting that the rules regarding de facto relationships may vary slightly depending on the state or territory, so this article will focus on the federal law laid out in the Family Law Act of 1975.

A de facto relationship exists when two people are not legally married to each other, not related by family, and regarding the circumstances of their relationship, they carry on as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. In determining whether a de facto relationship exists, the court will look at a myriad of factors laid out in the Family Law Act, including:

  • the duration of the relationship;
  • the nature and extent of their common residence;
  • whether a sexual relationship exists;
  • the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support;
  • the ownership, use and acquisition of their property;
  • the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • whether the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory as a prescribed kind of relationship;
  • the care and support of children;
  • the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

In order to receive the benefits awarded to de facto relationships under The Family Law Act, the parties must have engaged in a de facto relationship for at least two years (except if there is a child of the relationship or one party made substantial financial contributions).

Recent Changes – Family Law Amendment Act 2008

The Family Law Amendment Act was given Royal Assent in November of 2008 and greatly impacts de facto couples. The amendment brought these relationships under the purview of the federal law and allows them to be treated the same as married couples. The major change brought about by the amendment is that the financial settlement regime was extended to both same sex and heterosexual de facto relationships.

The amendment allows parties to a de facto relationship to seek declaratory relief in relation to their relationship and property, seek maintenance orders, seek property adjustment orders, and the amendment allows de facto couples to enjoy superannuation splitting and financial agreements.

The amendment does not affect de facto couples whose date of separation came prior to March 1, 2009; those relationships are not subject to the laws of the federal system, and are limited to relief awarded under state and territory laws. The date of separation is the sole determining factor as to whether a de facto relationship is governed by state or federal law. Should your de facto relationship have ended prior to this 2009 date, there is one way you may still have access to the federal law. If you and your partner make an unconditional choice to opt in to the federal legislation, and you satisfy the following elements, your separation can fall under the purview of the federal law.

  1. There must be no current order about property or maintenance.
  2. There must be no agreement between the parties enforceable under the state law in existence.
  3. The parties must consent in writing.
  4. The parties must have received independent legal advice as to the advantages and disadvantages of making the choice.
  5. The parties must have received a signed statement confirming the advice from their lawyer.

Generally, this exception is no longer applicable because The Family Law Act has placed a two-year limitation on the institution of matrimonial causes. So, had your de facto relationship ended before March 1, 2009, but no legal action was filed within two years then you would not be eligible for any relief.

Each of the following subsections highlights the relief available to de facto couples thanks to this 2008 amendment.

De Facto Relationships and Property Settlement

The Family Law Act makes little difference between property settlement amongst formerly married couples, and those who were in a de facto relationship. For all intents and purposes, the courts are to treat property settlement issues for married and de facto couples the same, and the language under the Family Law Act is nearly identical.

For an in depth analysis regarding property division, please see the articles in our property settlement centre. With regard to property settlement issues, just know that there is no real distinction between the way the law treats married couples and those who were in de facto relationships. The way that creditors, bankruptcy trustees, and property orders are treated is practically identical.

De Facto Relationships and Maintenance

Similar to property settlement issues, the way in which de facto relationships are treated with regard to maintenance is identical to the way in which married couples are treated. There are provisions in the Family Law Act that discuss the right to maintenance, power to order maintenance, factors to look at, urgent maintenance, and modification of orders that are almost verbatim for both married and de facto couples. You can find an analysis of all of the rules regarding maintenance in our maintenance center.

De Facto Relationships and Financial Agreements

As you may have guessed, the provisions of the Family Law Act that discuss financial arrangements for married couples is largely the same as the provisions that apply to de facto couples. Parties to a de facto relationship are permitted to enter into financial agreements; the only major distinction being that the agreement will be no longer be binding if a de facto couple later marries. Again, for a more detailed look at the law surrounding financial agreements, please see our property center.

De Facto Relationships and Superannuation

Superannuation splitting is available to de facto couples to the same extent that it is available to married couples. The only noteworthy distinction is that there are more complex provisions regarding the separation declaration for de facto couples than there are for married couples.

As you can see, thanks to the 2008 amendment, if you are involved in a legally recognised de facto relationship, and you subsequently separate, you are entitled to nearly the same relief you would be entitled to had you and your partner married.

De Facto Relationships – The Basics

A de facto relationship exists where two people, who are neither married nor related to each other, live together on a genuine domestic basis and includes same-sex relationships.

In determining whether a de facto relationship truly exists, the court will consider several factors, including but not limited to: the duration of the relationship, whether a sexual relationship exists, the degree of financial support, and your reputation and public aspects of your relationship. If you have engaged in a de facto relationship for at least two years, you are entitled to similar relief upon separation that you would be entitled to if you had chosen to marry.

In 2008 major changes were made with regard to the way the law treats de facto couples that subsequently separate. Now, de facto relationships fall under the purview of the federal law and are discussed in The Family Law Act of 1975. The 2008 amendment basically allowed for de facto couples to be entitled to nearly identical relief as married couples in terms of property settlement, maintenance, and financial agreements.

The bottom line is that the law awards some protection for de facto couples even though you and your partner chose not to get married. If you were party to a de facto relationship and have since separated, be sure to contact your lawyer and learn about the types of relief that are available to you.

What if my partner says we were not in a relationship?

The Court will consider the length of the relationship, your living arrangements, how you arranged your finances and property ownership, whether there was a sexual relationship, whether or not you had or cared for children and the way you presented your relationship in public.

Am I entitled to a property settlement?

You can make an application for a property settlement under the Family Law Act if any of the following apply:

  • your same sex relationship lasted for at least 2 years;
  • you have a child with your partner; and
  • you have made a substantial contribution to the property or finances of your partner.

How do we settle our property?

The same laws about property apply whether or not you were married or in a same sex relationship. You can start negotiations about property as soon as the relationship has broken down.

In a same sex relationship, you must commence property or maintenance proceedings within two years of your separation.

How to formalise a binding financial agreement

Binding Financial Agreements can be made between parties in a same sex couple relationship. These agreements can be made before, during or after the same sex couple relationship.

My partner and I have never been married. What are my rights and obligations?

For relationships that break down after 1 March 2009, new laws apply under the Family Law Act.

The same legal principles that apply to financial settlements between parties to a marriage are now applied to settlements between de facto partners.

Superannuation can be split between de facto partners following their relationship breakdown. Spousal maintenance can also be ordered.

Cases between de facto partners pertaining to their children have been regulated by the Family Law Act since 1988.

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Vanessa Mathews
Managing Director FDRP and Mediator
BCOMM BSW LLB

Accredited Family Law Specialist, FDRP,
Mediator and Parenting Coordinator

Vanessa Mathews is the founder and managing director of Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists, and has the rare combination of social work qualifications and experience, combined with nearly 20 years’ experience as a lawyer and mediator; it makes her approach to resolving legal relationship issues both sensible and sensitive.

She is a fully accredited family law specialist, mediator, family dispute resolution practitioner and parenting coordinator with a commerce degree – adding a financially astute aspect to her practice.

Vanessa has extensive experience in complex issues that arise from relationship breakdown, and works in partnership with her clients,
who regularly describe her as empathetic

Vanessa is an active member of the family law profession and
a member of the:

  •  Law Institute of Victoria, Family Law Section
  •  Law Council of Australia, Family Law Section
  •  Resolution Institute
  •  Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators
  • National Mediation Accreditation System
  •  Relationships Australia Family Lawyers Panel
  • Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers
  •  Relationships Australia / Federal Circuit Court ‘Access Resolve’ Mediation Service
  • Relationships Australia ‘Property Mediation’ Service

Vanessa and Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists
are regularly recognised as a ‘Leading Victorian Family
Lawyer’, ‘Recommended Family Law Mediator’ and a
‘Leading Victorian Family Law Firm’ by Doyle’s Guide to
the Australian Legal Profession.

Get Started With Vanessa

Book A Free Consult

Vanessa Mathews
Managing Director FDRP and Mediator
BCOMM BSW LLB

Accredited Family Law Specialist, FDRP,
Mediator and Parenting Coordinator

Vanessa Mathews is the founder and managing director of Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists, and has the rare combination of social work qualifications and experience, combined with nearly 20 years’ experience as a lawyer and mediator; it makes her approach to resolving legal relationship issues both sensible and sensitive.

She is a fully accredited family law specialist, mediator, family dispute resolution practitioner and parenting coordinator with a commerce degree – adding a financially astute aspect to her practice.

Vanessa has extensive experience in complex issues that arise from relationship breakdown, and works in partnership with her clients,
who regularly describe her as empathetic

Vanessa is an active member of the family law profession and
a member of the:

  •  Law Institute of Victoria, Family Law Section
  •  Law Council of Australia, Family Law Section
  •  Resolution Institute
  •  Australian Institute of Family Law Arbitrators and Mediators
  • National Mediation Accreditation System
  •  Relationships Australia Family Lawyers Panel
  • Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers
  •  Relationships Australia / Federal Circuit Court ‘Access Resolve’ Mediation Service
  • Relationships Australia ‘Property Mediation’ Service

Vanessa and Mathews Family Law & Mediation Specialists
are regularly recognised as a ‘Leading Victorian Family
Lawyer’, ‘Recommended Family Law Mediator’ and a
‘Leading Victorian Family Law Firm’ by Doyle’s Guide to
the Australian Legal Profession.

Get Started With Vanessa

Book A Free Consult