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Child Support Amendment Act 2005

2005 amendment to the Child Support Act replaces the term 'spousal maintenance' with 'domestic maintenance' to recognise maintenance is not restricted to spouses.

The amendments recognise that maintenance of another person is no longer restricted to spouses, by replacing the term "spousal maintenance" with the more neutral term "domestic maintenance".

Since the Child Support Act 1991 already recognises de facto relationships, and these have been interpreted by the Courts as being gender-neutral, by adopting the definition of "de facto relationship" in the Interpretation Act 1999, same-sex, as well as opposite-sex relationships are expressly recognised.

Key features

The main changes to the Child Support Act 1991 are the:

  • introduction of the term "domestic maintenance";
  • replacement of the defined term "liable spouse" with "liable spouse or partner"; and
  • omission of the term "married person".

Domestic maintenance

The term "domestic maintenance" is introduced as a new definition in section 2. This recognises that maintenance orders for the support of another person made under the Family Proceedings Act 1980 are not restricted to spouses. The definition of "spousal maintenance" is accordingly omitted and all references to it have been changed to "domestic maintenance".

Previously, people who had never been married to one another could register a voluntary agreement only if they were the parents of a child. This applied to couples whose de facto relationship had ended as well as those who had never been in a relationship. The amendments to section 47 of the Child Support Act 1991 allow a de facto couple whose relationship has ended to register a voluntary agreement irrespective of whether they have a child. However, those who have never been in a legal or de facto relationship may register a voluntary agreement for domestic maintenance only if they are the parents of a child.

Other sections in which the term "spousal maintenance" is replaced by "domestic maintenance" are: 4, 52, 55, 58, 59, 61, 62, 64, 66, 68, 69, 72, 73, 77, 79, 80, 85, 86, 87, 89, 91, 95, 136, 137, 145, 180, 214 and 215.

References to "married person" and "marriage"

The defined term "married person" is omitted. Where the phrase "is not a married person" was previously used, it is replaced with the phrase "is not living with another person in a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship". Similarly, where the phrase "living with the person in a relationship in the nature of marriage" was used, this is replaced by the phrase "living with the person in a marriage, civil union or de facto relationship".

These changes clarify that the same rights and obligations flow from each type of domestic relationship. However, because "de facto relationship" is itself defined to mean a couple who live together in a relationship in the nature of marriage or civil union, there is effectively no change other than to recognise civil unions.

Amendments to the terms "married" or "marriage" are in sections 5, 8, 10, 25, 30 and 99.

Other amendments in the Child Support Act are: replacement of the definition "liable spouse" with "liable spouse or partner" and the substitution of that new term in sections 61, 86 and 240; substitution of more neutral terms for "spouse" - "party" in section 113 and "person" in section 119; replacing the reference to "marriage counselling" with "relationship counselling" in section 124; the insertion of a reference to "civil union" in section 230; and omitting the unnecessary term "spousal" in the section headings of sections 267 and 268.