Registered Relationships in South Australia

Same Sex Relationships

From 1 August 2017, it is now possible for a couple to register their relationship with Birth Deaths and Marriages in South Australia. Any relationship can be registered, irrespective of whether same-sex or opposite sex, and irrespective of either parties’ sex or gender identity, as long as:

  • It is between two people over the age of 18 years;
  • At least one of them resides in SA;
  • Neither is married;
  • Neither is already in a registered relationship;
  • Neither of them is in a relationship as a couple with someone else; and
  • They are not related by family (e.g. brother, sister, parent, grandparent).

The Register arises from the Relationships Register Act 2016 (SA) which was introduced in the aftermath of the tragedy involving David Bulmer-Rizzi, a British man who died in South Australia after marrying his husband Marco Bulmer-Rizzi, but because their UK marriage was not recognised in Australia, the death certificate was stamped “Never Married”.

At the time Premier Jay Weatherill apologised to Mr Bulmer-Rizzi and intervened to have the death certificate amended. The SA Government then proceeded to take this step among others to remove such discrimination, and has created this Register so that same-sex couples can legally record their relationships regardless of whether the Federal Government’s position changes in the future.

Parties wishing to register their relationship may choose to do so with a Ceremony performed at Chesser House in Adelaide, but a Ceremony is not required for the relationship to be registered.

So what does this mean for the way Family Law deals with such relationships? In this regard not much will change legally, because even if not “registered”, same sex and de facto relationships currently have the same legal rights and entitlements as married couples, albeit there are time requirements for the recognition of such relationships when it comes to property disputes.

Currently a de facto or same sex couple must have been living together for 2 years (or have a child together) before one of them can apply to the Court for property settlement under the Family Law Act. However, if the relationship is registered and then breaks down, the time requirements will not apply.

From a Wills and Estates perceptive, registering your relationship will have other legal consequences such as automatically revoking a previous will unless the will is made with reference to it being “in contemplation of the registered relationship”. If either or both parties do not have a will, then the registration of the relationship will protect the other in the event of the partner’s death as they would be treated the same as a spouse in the distribution of the estate.

There are other State-based laws (such as those relating to surrogacy and claims for certain compensation) where a 3-year time requirement would usually apply for the relationship, and therefore if the relationship is registered these time requirements will no longer apply.

If the relationship breaks down, parties can apply (solely or jointly) to revoke the registration of the relationship. A “cooling off” period of 90 days applies. After that the Registrar will make an entry into the Register that the registration has been revoked. The only other ways a Registered Relationship can end are by the death of a party or the marriage of one of them.

Further information can be obtained at https://www.sa.gov.au/topics/family-and-community/births,-deaths-and-marriages/register-a-relationship

Shelley O'Connell