This month saw the opening of the NSW Relationships Register. As from 1 July 2010, unmarried couples are now able to prove their committed or de-facto status by registering. Paperwork will be simplified and one document ascertaining to the relationship will be issued and can be used across a range of government agencies. The register will allow couples to be recognised on par with de-facto status and relationships will be considered as such.
This register will help unmarried heterosexual or same-sex couples to access government services, legal entitlements and records.
It is seen as a simple and dignified process by various groups and as not going far enough by others. Controversial debate has preceded the launch of the Register.
The NSW government is being supported in its efforts by the Commonwealth government that will implement complementary amendments to Commonwealth regulations. These amendments will allow couples registered under the scheme to access a wide range of Commonwealth services and to be viewed as a couple under Commonwealth law in relation to taxation, social security, health, aged care and superannuation.
Registration will also obligate and restrict couples under certain laws. It is important to review Family Law regulations in relation to de-facto relationships to ascertain the legal obligations that pertain to being registered as a couple. For further information on de-facto relationships, visit De-facto Relationships Fact Sheet.
Legal advice from a professional solicitor may provide clarity on these issues.
Eligibility on the NSW Relationships Register
To be eligible, couples must be in a committed, exclusive relationship; must not be married or in another relationship that is registered or registrable; must be 18 years or over; and, one person must be a resident of NSW. A couple does not have to live together to be recognised by the Register.
Registration can be terminated if the relationship is dissolved. Either or both parties can apply to rescind the registration. However, if only one party wishes to revoke the registration that person must have served notice to their partner of their intention. If this cannot be done, the Register has authority to dispense with this requirement. There is no fee charged for taking deregistering. Also, no refunds of initial fees are available. There is a cooling-off period of 90 days with regard to revocation.
Recognition in other States
Reciprocity will be established with other states and jurisdictions that have registers in place. The ACT has moved to recognise relationships registered in NSW.
Management of the Registry
The NSW Registry of Births, deaths and Marriages is managing the Register. For further information visit www.bdm.nsw.gov.au.