Home > Family Court, gay, Lesbian > The Age – "’Family Court is for gays, too’" by Misha Schubert

The Age – "’Family Court is for gays, too’" by Misha Schubert

ONE of the country’s most senior former judges has advocated giving gay couples access to the Family Court to settle property disputes after a break-up — a move that faces stiff resistance from the conservative Christian lobby.

On the eve of moves to end discrimination against gay couples across a range of federal laws, former Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson has written to federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland to urge a further shift in family law.

The reform would give gay couples access to the cheaper specialist court and its mediators — instead of being forced to spend tens of thousands of dollars to resolve disputes in the Supreme Court.

Under current laws, de facto heterosexual couples are also denied access to the Family Court. In the letter, obtained by The Age, Professor Nicholson argues the reform would ensure more cases are settled at mediation without trial.

“To force same-sex couples to continue to rely on State Supreme Courts, which are often more expensive and whose personnel have less experience in family law matters, would be a continuing breach of the human rights of lesbians and gay men and their families,” he wrote.

Professor Nicholson also urges the Federal Government to give automatic recognition to gay couples listed on state relationships registers. He says they are different from de facto heterosexual couples, because the partners have taken a decision to formalise the relationship.

In practical terms, such a move would also cut the amount of paperwork gay couples need to provide to federal agencies to prove their relationship was genuine.

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rodney Croome backed the move, arguing the specialist family court should be open to all couples.

“State Supreme Courts are not set up to handle these matters, and many same-sex partners forced to resolve their disputes in this way find it cumbersome, time-consuming and very expensive,” he said.

But Australian Christian Lobby chief Jim Wallace said he had strong concerns about giving Family Court access to gay couples without children because it undermined the traditional model of family. But he said there was a case for gay couples with children to have access to the specialist court to ensure the best interests of the child were protected.

“The expertise for dealing with children in family break-ups lies with practitioners in the Family Court and we wouldn’t want to disadvantage children,” he said. “(But to give access in childless cases) would be the wrong signal because we believe we need to hold up the traditional model of family.

“It just removes a nuance of the fact that family is mother, father and children.

“We would want to preserve that definition in all law as much as possible.”

Gary Singer, the deputy Lord Mayor of Melbourne who is in the midst of a high-profile court battle after a break-up with his gay partner, said the reforms were urgent to protect privacy and end inequality for both gay and de facto couples. His case became public because Supreme Court documents are not covered by the same privacy protections as Family Court cases.

“One of the problems with being under state law is that your file is open to the public so anyone can access your file and read the affidavits and material in your file,” he said. “When people break up, they say nasty things about each other — that exposure doesn’t happen to other people.”
KEY POINTS
Gay couples should be able to settle property disputes in the Family Court.
Forcing gays to use the Supreme Court is costly and compromises their privacy.

[Link: Original Article]

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Categories: Family Court, gay, Lesbian
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