NEW laws that start today leave cheating husbands open to divorce-style litigation from their mistresses, who can now claim income maintenance, property and even superannuation funds.
The Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures), dubbed the “mistress laws”, were passed by the Senate last November.
The main objective is to remove same-sex discrimination from the Family Court system, but they have left the door open for a raft of de facto relationship claims.
The laws declare that de facto couples who satisfy basic criteria – such as being in the relationship for at least two years – will be treated in the Family Court in the same way as a married couple. It also applies to same-sex couples.
The laws will change the way property is divided by enabling the court to consider the “future needs” of partners, as it does for married couples.
Men or women who have a second relationship outside a marriage are now liable to legal action in the Family Court should the second partner decide he or she deserves income support or a share of assets. This is particularly the case if a child is involved.
Major law firms have already been asked for advice on the new laws, from those involved in more than one relationship and long-term de facto couples, who now want to protect their property.
Senior Slater & Gordon family law solicitor Heather McKinnon said firms had now started fielding calls from people “who are a little bit worried”.
“A number of firms in Sydney and Melbourne have had inquiries from clients who have had long-standing relationships with people in other cities, in which they have provided accommodation and a lifestyle totally without the knowledge of their married partner,” she said.
“It is quite clear that, if either of the two, shall we say women, made an application to the court, the other would have to be notified.
“The law is catching up with the complexity of social relationships. There is now no such thing as a hidden mistress.”
Because the laws apply to same-sex couples, married men with gay lovers could potentially end up in the Family Court. The changes could come as a shock to those who feel they are protected by their married status when it comes to extramarital relationships.
The laws could potentially also run into conflict over deceased estates, where children are in dispute with children from other relationships. They will also render void many pre-nuptial agreements.
Posted by: euzoia | March 2, 2009
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