Alternative family arrangements

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Alternative family arrangements

  • (non-nuclear families)
  • Nuclear family becoming less common
  • Important that law is relevant to changing families

ATSI People’s customary marriages

  • Most Indigenous marriages are not recognised by Australian Law (refer to what constitutes a valid marriage)
  • ALRC released a report- Recognition of Aboriginal customary Laws 1986 (D)
  • - Suggested these marriages be given de facto status.

Single Parent Families

  • Can result from what?
  • 77% of single parent families are headed by the female. (2006)
  • Legal issues include: discrimination, access to welfare, right to maintenance payments from non-residential parent, financial insecurity.

Blended Families

  • Couple live together (de facto or married) with children from a previous relationship
  • No concrete legal definition of ‘blended’ and ‘step’ families
  • Issues: responsibility for step-children? Maintenance? Adoption? Inheritance?
  • Outline how each of these is resolved.
  • Step parents are not responsible for child support of step children.
  • The FLC can order maintenance payments if the blended family spits if they are a legal guardian
  • Normal adoption laws apply to adopt step children
  • No claim on estate, unless dependent.

Same Sex relationships

  • 2 people from the same sex share a bona fide (genuine) relationship (domestic and sexual).
  • Can not be legally married under Australian Law
  • Entitled to De Facto status
  • 1995 gay male couple took NIB health fund to Equal Opportunity Tribunal stating they had be discriminated against by not being able to take out the ‘family’ option of their health cover. Found to have been discriminated against (Brown V. NIB Health Fund Ltd. 1995) C


  • Discrimination – Not widely accepted in society
  • Adoption – Still not permitted for gay couples to adopt. Gay people can adopt as a single person
  • Property – did not have access to Family Law Act (1975) to resolve disputes

Over to you

  • Use pages 254-55 to map chart changes in law responding to questions of rights of same-sex couples

Most recent change

  • Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Act 2008 - recognised de facto, incl same-sex, as equal in rights as marriages.
  • Detailed information at:

Polygamous Marriages

  • Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) disallows this: A marriage is void if either of the parties was, at the time of the marriage lawfully married to some other person
  • Where people have legally married 2 spouses overseas, the Australian Legal system recognises the 1st marriage and the subsequent as de facto relationships (Family Law Act 1975 (Cth.)).


  • Socially unaccepted
  • Diverse immigration means that people entering Australia are sometimes in polygamous relationships
  • Does it discriminate against race/religion?
  • Read the linked article

De Facto

  • A de facto relationship is defined in Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975.
  • The law requires that you and your former partner, who may be of the same or opposite sex, had a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.
  • your relationship is not a de facto relationship if you were legally married to one another or if you are related by family.

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