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Alternate Family Arrangements

            The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines a family as "two or more persons living in the same household related to each other by blood, marriage (including a de facto marriage), fostering or adoption". This definition applies to many varied family arrangements in place across Australia today. .
             The slow decline of the once widespread nuclear family has in turn seen the rise of many other family arrangements, including couples without children, de facto couples, blended families, extended families, single parent families, gay and lesbian couples, customary law marriages and polygamous marriages. All of these examples are defined as alternate family arrangements, but not all are treated equally in the eyes of the law.
             Prior to the De Facto Relationships Act 1984 (NSW) the only legally recognisable relationship was marriage involving members of the opposite sex. As social trends begin to move toward alternate family arrangements and as the nuclear family ideal begin to fade, the law must alter to accommodate changing trends.
             The De Facto Relationships Act 1984 (NSW) paved the way for protection and recognition among many alternate family arrangements by recognising that a couple need not be married to be acknowledged by law. However, this act did not mean that all family arrangements were now equally treated by law, and some parties still felt that the law had discriminated against them.
             One alternate family arrangement that many believe has been discriminated against is same sex couples, which were not recognised by the law until 1999 when the Labor Government introduced the Property (Relationships) Legislation Amendment Act 1999. This amendment inserted a non-gendered definition of "de facto partner" into legislation relating to wills and estates, compensation, duties, and property distribution upon separation. A de facto relationship is defined in section 4 of the Property (Relationships) Act 1984 as a relationship between two adult persons who live together as a couple, and are not married to one another or related by family.

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