Family Relationships

In contemporary Australia there exists a wide variety of family structures. However, the law has traditionally recognised the nuclear family and has been slow to recognise other family arrangements. As a consequence, not all families receive equal recognition under the law. However, there has been a gradual movement towards equality for all family units, regardless of their composition.
The nuclear family, composed of a legally married couple, as defined by the Family Law Act 1975 and their children has traditionally been the family structure that has received legal recognition and regulation. The law imposes certain responsibilities upon spouses, such as maintenance, and rights, such as the right to inherit in a case of intestacy. The law also creates obligations and rights between parents and children. Parents must provide children with an education and medical treatment and are responsible for their care and control and for imposing reasonable discipline. These rights derive from the common law as well as statute law, including the Education Act 1990 (NSW) and Children and Young Person’s (Care and Protection) Act 1987 (NSW).
De Facto relationships have become a very common family structure in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has found that 66% of modern couples live in a de facto state prior to marriage. The widespread social acceptance of such relationships and the lack of legal regulation over them prompted all state governments to pass legislation in this area. The De Facto Relationship Act 1984 (NSW) aims to protect individuals in de facto relationships and to clarify the rights of the parties in the event of the relationship breaking down.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders often marry according to the law, customs and rituals of their own communities. Such relationships are not within the legal definition of marriage as established by the Marriage Act 1961 (Cth) or the De Facto Relationships Act 1984 (NSW). Therefore, partners to a...