Family law is a wide area of law which governs legal rights and obligations of parents and children, marriage, alternative family relationships and divorce. Whilst the traditional family involves marriage between a man and women whom have children, in today’s modern society this has changed. Family arrangements include extended families, blended families, single- parent families and same-sex and de facto relationships. Indeed to an extent law reform has been effective in dealing with contemporary issues concerning family members, these contemporary issues include same-sex marriage, changing nature of parental responsibility, surrogacy and birth technologies and care and protection of children.
The recognition of same-sex relationships in Australia has evolved and has recently been given recognition under the law whereas in the 1980’s same-sex relationships were seen as a criminal offence. Heterosexuals had access to a number of rights and obligations which same-sex couples were excluded, this can be supported by the ‘Marriage Act 1961 (Cth)’ which firstly acknowledges marriage which was based on the Hyde v Hyde (Woodmansee) (1866) case. Although the Commonwealth passed the ‘Marriage Amendment Act 2004 (Cth) which reaffirmed the traditional concept of marriage and ensured same-sex marriage was excluded. The purpose of the amendment was to clarify section 5(i) which amended the definition of marriage by adding ‘the union of a man and a woman’ and S 88EA explicitly states any same- sex marriage solemnised in another country would automatically be declared void. Although legal responses to this contemporary issue have been slow, it has gradually changed over time. It wasn’t until 1999 same-sex couples were recognised under the law, amendments were made to the ‘De Facto Relationships Act 1984 (NSW)’ which was renamed as the ‘Property (Relationships) Act 1984 (NSW). Thus recognising same-sex couples led to law reforms in existing, which allowed same-sex couples to have the same legal rights and protection as heterosexual couples which included property division, family provision, accident compensation and decision making during illness and after death. This law reform can be seen effective as it allows legal entitlements to same-sex couples and equal access in certain areas, this can be supported by a poll through 2009-11 which represented 64% supported same-sex marriage whilst 75% believed the reform for marriage equality is inevitable. Although as it is also ineffective due to discrimination is some areas.
During 2000 – 2009 Australia introduced many law reforms, 2008 introduced major legislation such as the ‘Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and other Measures) Act 2008 (Cth) which allowed same-sex couples to be treated the same way as heterosexual couples in regard to financial matters on relationship breakdown. Also in 2008 the ‘Same-Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws – General Law Reform) Act 2008 and ‘Same Sex Relationships (Equal Treatment in Commonwealth Laws –Superannuation) Act 2008’ was passed and eliminated many discriminatory provisions which was effective by protecting same-sex couples from discrimination. This was the response to the Australian Human Rights Commission's report Same-Sex: Same Entitlements. The law reforms in 2008 significantly impacted many areas including tax, superannuation, child support, social security and family assistance, as well as in 2010 the ‘Adoption Amendment (Same –Sex Couples) Act 2010 allowed same-sex couple to adopt. These law reforms were very effective in allowing all same-sex individuals equality amongst heterosexual couples.
In 2001 Netherlands was the first country to legalise same-sex marriage since then many countries including Norway, Belgium and Spain have also legalise same-sex marriage. Although Australia hasn’t legalised