Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Age - "Push to open Family Court to gay couples" by AAP

Gay couples who are separating should be allowed access to the Family Court to settle property disputes, the court's former chief justice has urged.

In a letter to federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland, former Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson said Family Court protection should be extended beyond married couples, Fairfax newspapers reported on Thursday.

Under current laws, homosexual couples and heterosexual de facto couples must rely on state supreme courts to settle property matters.

But married couples have access to the specialist Family Court and its team of mediators, which were available for tens of thousands of US dollars less.

In the letter, obtained by Fairfax, Prof Nicholson said the change would ensure more cases are settled at mediation without a 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.

Australian Coalition for Equality spokesman Rodney Croome backed the proposal.

But Australian Christian Lobby chief Jim Wallace said while giving Family Court access to gay couples without children undermined the traditional family model, those with children had a case for Family Court access to ensure the best interests of their children were protected.

[Link: Original Article]