What are the legal effects of registering same-sex relationships?

by The FindLaw Team

The ACT, New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria have relationship registration and civil partnership schemes granting formal recognition to couples who are unwilling, or unable to marry. Relationship registration schemes may be particularly pertinent to same-sex couples and there are a number of practical effects of registration of a relationship that this piece will cover.

How does the relationship registry work?

Using the Relationships Register Act 2010 (NSW) as our statutory example, two adults who are in a relationship can register if:

  • at least one of the partners resides in the State;
  • neither person is married, in a registered relationship, or in a relationship as a couple with any other person; and
  • the parties are not related by family.
In order to register the relationship, the couple must lodge an application with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and generally speaking, there is a 28 day cooling off period.

What effects does registration have?

Once a relationship is registered, the partners are commonly seen as a de facto under State and federal legislation. Registration of a relationship is for the most part, seen as conclusive proof of the relationship status of the couple. 

Looking to s 4AA(1) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), a person is in a de facto relationship if:
  • the parties aren’t legally married to each other;
  • the parties aren’t related by family; and
  • having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, the parties are a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. 


What happens if a couple does not live together?

One of the primary benefits of registering a relationship is that the parties to the relationship are not required to live with one another. A registered relationship may be recognised as a de facto relationship under some laws. However, other laws, such as property division after a relationship breakdown for example, may still require a couple to live with each other.

Void registered relationships

A registered relationship will be considered void if prohibited by legislation – such as the parties are related to one another, or alternatively, one of the partners in another relationship. Additionally, a registered relationship will be void if it was obtained by fraud, duress, or other improper means. Finally, if either party is considered mentally incapable of understanding the nature and effect of registration, then registration may be void.

Ending a registered relationship

Upon marriage, death or revocation of the relationship either by the courts, or the parties themselves, will bring the registered relationship to an end. Applications to revoke the relationship can be done at the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. 



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