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Parliament Gives Certainty to De Facto Orders

Legislation has now been passed to validate orders made by the Family Law Courts in matters between de facto couples that resulted from an “administrative error” made by the Federal Government.

The Family Law Amendment (Validation of Certain Orders and Other Measures) Bill 2012 passed through the Senate on 22 March 2012. The legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives on 14 March 2012 to enable orders that were made prior to 11 February 2012 to be validated.

On 1 March 2009, changes to the Family Law Act 1975 came into effect to enable the Family Law Courts to have jurisdiction over de facto financial matters that had previously be the subject of state or territory legislation. However, important proclamations under the Family Law Act giving the Courts jurisdiction to made orders and declarations were overlooked by the Federal Government and not made. As a consequence, such orders and declarations may not have been valid and could have resulted in uncertainty about the arrangements for property settlement matters agreed to by parties or ordered by the Courts.

The purpose of the Bill was to ensure orders that had been made prior to 11 February 2012 were validated without parties having to go to any further expense or bring further proceedings in the Courts. The effect of the legislation is to “put persons in the same position as they would have been in” if the proclamations had been made in March 2009. The Bill also makes amendment to the Family Law Act to remove the necessity for proclamations to be made to bring into effect changes any future changes to the Family Law Act to prevent a similar situation from occurring again in the future.

The changes to the legislation are likely to come into effect by the end of March.