De Facto or Married?

by Michelle McDermott on May 22, 2015

Michelle McDermott

I read a rather funny article recently by Becky Dickinson on the Parentdish UK website as to why the author does not think that she needs to be married. The reasons may resonate with many of you out there in “Blog Land”.

To clarify, in the UK parties who live together but are not married are called “cohabitees”. Here in Australia, they are referred to as “de factos”.  However, the major difference with regards to the law in the both countries is that in the UK, cohabitees have very limited legal rights in the event of a separation and any claims are judged not by family law, but by property law or trust law principles. In Australia, de facto couples are generally treated in the similar manner as those that are married, providing they meet a number of thresholds such as having lived together or two years, have a child together or have made significant contributions to the asset pool of the parties.

Some of the reasons as to why the author (who has three children) did not believe in marriage included:-

  • Marriage does not make children happy, its strong relationships that make people happy – not certificates or statistics.
  • The cost of weddings is prohibitive and the money could be better used to fund the children’s education and lifestyle.
  • Women are not objects to be handed from one male charge to another and the idea of being “given away” like a prize cow or a round of cheese was unpalatable. Neither are men commitment-phobic primates who need to be herded up the aisle to prevent them from straying.

In conclusion, Ms Dickinson submitted that its not cohabitating couples who needed to change in the UK, but the law. In one sense, I agree with her. However, on the other hand there’s (perhaps an old-fashioned) part of me that likes the idea of the commitment required for marriage.

For mine, the unfortunate reality is that when any relationship breaks down, whether it is a heterosexual or same sex couple, whether it is in the UK, Australia or anywhere else in the world, it rarely does so as a consequence of a piece of paper. I would certainly prefer to see the family laws of any country not discriminate against a person as a result of their sexuality or their choice to live together with or without a marriage certificate.

Whatever your situation, do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly family law team if you find that your relationship is in difficulties or has broken down.

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