In the most recent addition of the Queensland Law Society’s Magazine, Proctor, there was an article on the Civil Partnerships Act in Queensland. That act, which allows formal recognition of marriage-like relationships where the couples choose not to marry or cannot by law marry, took effect on 23 February 2012. The same addition of Proctor contained an interview with the new Queensland Attorney General, Jarrod Bleijie where he said in relation to the Civil Partnerships Act, “The [Attorney General’s Department] is working on a brief for me and we are also getting legal advice in terms of options going forward, recognizing the fact that there was an election commitment that we would repeal it if it could be shown that these people won’t be left in legal limbo. Cabinet has yet to form a view on it. I am going to be putting a submission to Cabinet, but I am not doing that submission until I have got the legal advice.”
Cutting through the political gobbledygook – we’d like to get rid of it but that might be too much of a headache.
It is certainly possible for the Queensland Parliament to repeal the Civil Partnerships Act without invalidating the existing registered unions. However in creating civil unions it was also necessary to create the process by which those unions could be formally ended.
Simply repealing the Act would effectively leave the couples whose unions had been recognised without a way to “divorce”. To shut the gate at this stage would require this marriage-like system of recognition of relationship and structure for the legal dissolution of the relationships to remain as a legal oddity for a select few.
Who can have a civil partnership?
- A civil Partnership is a legally recognised relationship under the The Civil Partnerships Act a Civil Partnership is defined as a legally recognised relationship that, subject to the Provisions of the act may be entered into by any two adults, regardless of their sex. The requirements are:-
(a) That neither party is married or already in a civil partnership;
(b) The partners are not close blood relations;
(c) One of the partners lives in Queensland;
(d) Both are over the age of 18 years.
How do you enter into a civil partnership?
As the unromantic title, civil partnership suggests, it takes place by filling in a form and sending it to a government official. This process has the following steps:-
- The couple fills in a form (form 15 – Application to Register a Civil Partnership). The form gives you the option of having a registration ceremony.
- When submitting the form the couple must provide documentary proof of identity and residence in Queensland;
- The completed form is sent to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages where, the partnership is registered after a cooling off period of 10 days. Within that 10 day cooling off period either partner can withdraw the Application (there is a form for this too).
Ending a Civil Partnership
The Civil Partnership is terminated on:-
a. The death of either party;
b. The marriage of either party;
c. Court Order.
The process of ending the relationship is much the same as for a married couple except that a subsequent marriage would not be regarded as bigamous. The grounds for termination mirror the Family Law Act divorce provisions except that the application is made by one of the parties to the District Court not the Federal Magistrates Court.
The grounds for termination are:-
- That the parties have lived separately and apart for a continuous period of at least 12 months; and
- That the relationship has broken down irretrievably and there is no likelihood of reconciliation.
As with divorce it is possible to be separated but remain under the same roof. Once the order terminating the civil partnership is made the court must provide a copy to the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages so that it can be noted on the register. This is a departure from what happens with divorce where the marriage is registered but the divorce is not.
Are there any Family Law rights affected by a Civil Partnership?
Registering a civil partnership opens the door to a claim for property settlement under the Family Law Act. This is because one of the determinants under that Act - to establish whether a de-facto relationship exists - is that the relationship was registered under a state law. However the Family Law Act does not say the registration is conclusive of a de-facto relationship merely that it is one of a number of factors one of which the court might take into account.
The registration of the relationship also helps overcome the threshold issue for maintenance and property settlement which mandates that before an application can be made the court must be satisfied that:
- The length of the de facto relationship is at least 2 years; or
- The parties have a child together; or
(a) the party who applies for the order has made substantial contributions to the property pool or in the role of homemaker or parent; and
(b) a failure to make the order or declaration would result in serious injustice to the applicant; or
- That the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory.