New ‘divorce’ rights for Australian gay couples

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Gay and de facto couples in Australia who break up are set to win the same property rights as married couples.

Unmarried couples will be able to settle their differences in Family Court thanks to Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who won Commonwealth and state backing for the federal law to be changed.

Previously these couples were obliged to split their assets in state courts, which were more costly, more complicated and took longer than the Family Court.

The Family Court, which has jurisdiction over gay and de facto custody disputes, will adjudicate the division of assets.

Hulls, who recently moved to set up a register to legally recognise gay relationships, said in the The Australian :

“Why should people be discriminated against in resolving their property disputes simply because they are not married?”

“It’s extremely costly for them at the moment. The Family Court is far more accessible, less costly and more user-friendly.”

The change has been discussed for the past six years.

The move to give equal rights to gays and de facto couples was a complicated one as the Commonwealth and the states could not agree.

The Howard government initially allowed the change for straight de factos, but not gay couples.

Hulls fought back against the decision by writing a letter to federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland in December, who then considered the change.

He also previously helped change Australian legislation on in-vitro fertilisation and the rules surrounding surrogacy, pushing for gay women to have equal access to the treatments as straight infertile women.