On June 1 2007, South Australia's Domestic Partners
Property Act (DPPA) came into operation. For the first time it
allows for the resolution of property disputes between same-sex
couples whose domestic partnership had dissolved.
However, the new law doesn't allow superannuation to be
dealt with in the same way as it is under the Family Law
Act for married couples, where superannuation can be split by
an order of the Family Court, or by a superannuation splitting
Agreement. Instead, superannuation is now defined as an asset,
which can be made the subject of a property adjusting order.
Further legislative steps need to be taken to ensure same-sex
couples can obtain splitting orders or enter into splitting
Also, these disputes in SA fall under the jurisdiction of the
Supreme Court, District Court or Magistrate's Court. These
aren't courts of specialist family law like the Family Court
and the Federal Magistrate's Court South Australia is lagging
behind in this regard, as it is the only state which has not
enacted legislation to refer power to the Commonwealth in respect
of domestic partnerships.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the
Are rights the same as under the Family Law Act for
No, it is more narrowly defined with the focus on past
contributions rather than future needs.
How long do parties have to live together?
Three years but it is possible where parties live together and
separate on more than one occasion to accumulate the periods of
cohabitation. The original legislation also allowed jurisdiction if
there was a child of the relationship, but it remains to be seen
how the courts will interpret this within the context of same-sex
Do partners have to live in SA for the whole relationship?
No, but at least for a substantial part of the relationship.
What happens if we separate and I move interstate?
One of the parties has to live in the state of South Australia
at the date court proceedings are instituted.
Do partners have to go to court for the division of
No, it is important for parties to try and reach agreement
without involving the court Parties should explore every avenue of
alternate dispute resolution, particularly mediation before
considering court action.
What property can be divided?
Any real property or personal properly such as motor vehicles,
bank accounts, furniture and chattels, jewellery, superannuation
and trust interests.
Is it only financial contributions which are taken into
No, the court also must consider home-making and parenting
If partners agree, how do they bring about certainty in their
The parties can enter into a Domestic Partnership Agreement.
This is a written Agreement which sets out.the terms of their
settlement. If each party has a Lawyer's Certificate of
Independent Advigs. endorsed on the Agreement, then a
Gfturt cannot make an order which is inconsistent
with the terms of the Agreement. A Certified Domestic Partnership
Agreement therefore brings about a final and binding
In the past there have been newspaper reports of proceedings
under the De Facto Relationships Act Will that happen under the
No. The Act now provides a restriction on publication of
proceedings which did not previously exist under the De Facto
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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