By Greg Cox, Special Counsel, Laura Hanrahan, Associate and
The uncertainty surrounding civil partnerships in Queensland has
been removed with the introduction of the Civil Partnerships
and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2012, which allows
couples, regardless of their gender, to have their relationship
legally recognised by registering their relationship.
Registering their relationship provides couples with proof of
the relationship's existence for matters related to
superannuation, tax and government benefits. However, it can also
have some unintended consequences from an estate planning point of
Here, special counsel Greg Cox, associate Laura Hanrahan and
trainee solicitor Leisa Hickey outline the process and practical
consequences of registering a relationship under the Act.
The previous Queensland Government enacted the Civil
Partnerships Act 2011, with the majority of its sections coming
into effect in February 2012. The new Queensland Government has not
repealed that Act, but has made a number of important amendments to
The Act has been renamed as the Relationships Act 2011. All
references to a civil partnership have been removed and the Act now
refers to 'registered relationships' instead.
The ability for couples to make a declaration of their
relationship in the form of a ceremony has been removed by the
amending Act. Instead, they must register the relationship with
Births Deaths and Marriages.
Registering relationships under the Relationships Act
An application to register (and subsequently terminate) a
relationship is made through the Queensland Registry of Births
Deaths and Marriages. There are prescribed forms which must be
completed and lodged together with supporting documents.
To register a relationship in Queensland, the parties to it
not be married;
not be in another registered relationship;
not be in a prohibited relationship (that is, a relationship
between lineal ancestors, lineal descendants, siblings or half
provide evidence to show that at least one of the parties has
lived in Queensland for at least six months before the application
While there is currently no fee payable to register a
relationship under the Act, there is a fee if the parties would
like to obtain a certificate. The certificate is akin to a marriage
certificate, but it is not compulsory to obtain such a
A registered relationship is automatically terminated on the
death of either party, or the marriage of either party. It can also
be terminated if either party makes the requisite application to
have the registration terminated, in which case a fee is
Practical consequences of registering relationships
While a registered relationship is not a marriage, it has the
same effect as a marriage in a number of respects. From an estate
planning perspective, the parties to a registered relationship have
somewhat different and arguably greater rights than those who are
party to a de facto relationship.
Similarly, while the termination of a registered relationship is
not a divorce, it also has many of the same effects as a divorce in
terms of wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney.
While the focus in the media has been on the registration of
same sex relationships, the provisions of the Act apply equally to
heterosexual couples. Those in a personal relationship other than
marriage need to be aware of the provisions of the Act and consider
the consequences, both intended and unintended, of applying to have
their relationship registered.
Just as those who marry or contemplate getting married should
have valid and effective wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney in
place, those who are contemplating having their relationship
registered under the Relationships Act also need to consider these
estate planning issues.
There are several requirements that must be completed by an executor before the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
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