Gillard’s rights as a de facto are well defined in law

by Peter Magee on June 30, 2010

In an opinion piece published in yesterday’s Sydney Morning Herald entitled “Shacking up is hard to do: Why Gillard may be leery of the lodge”, Bettina Arndt questions the appropriateness of Prime Minister Julia Gillard taking up residence in the Lodge with her de facto partner of four years, Tim Mathieson. Arndt labels such relationships as “unstable”, “risky” and “dubious lifestyle decisions”. Almost simultaneously, Stephen Lunn of The Australian reported that “Ms Gillard’s status as Australia’s first unmarried Prime Minister is of no concern to pro-family lobby groups”.
A de facto relationship like Julia’s is defined by the law as a relationship between two adults who live together as a couple, and who are not married or related to each other. This includes same-sex couples. There are several factors that are taken into account when determining if a de facto relationship exists in any given case. These include the duration of the relationship, cohabitation and the degree of financial dependence and interdependence.
While there are divergent opinions on the legitimacy of de facto relationships, there is no such ambiguity in law. Legally, de facto couples have similar rights and obligations to married couples. For example, upon the death of their de facto partner, the remaining partner (with whom the deceased had a domestic relationship) has the same entitlements as they would have had the couple been married. The law also contains extensive provisions regarding the property rights of de facto couples, and, in the event of the dissolution of the relationship, provides for spousal maintenance to accommodate the future needs of a partner.

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