In its first form as a legal contract, marriage was essentially an agreement between two families to preserve power and influence. Your father wants to join kingdoms, so you marry the other king’s son. Your family has money but no power, so you marry the mayor’s daughter to preserve family connections.
Romantic notions attached to marriage did not begin until the 17th century when the act of marriage became a statement of love, respect, and union. You fell in love and wanted to spend the rest of your life with someone, so you got married in order to be together. Simple, understandable, romantic—all thanks to the period of Enlightenment and the idea of pursuing happiness.
Today, marriage is somewhat of a combination of both. It is a commitment to love and support someone as well as a legally-binding contract establishing rights and obligations. You love someone and want to become a family and share your lives together? Then you can choose to commit to one another and enter into a legally binding obligation. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to marry. Instead, you can decide to enter into a de facto relationship or merely live together and celebrate one another’s lives together. This doesn’t change what happens if you decide to separate, however.
Legal History of Separation and Divorce
Because it was believed to be immoral, divorce wasn’t an option in Australia until as late as 1857. Even then it could only be granted by Parliament to men in order to preserve land and wealth. Although the Commonwealth was granted the power to rule in divorce cases in 1901, the formal process was not implemented until the 1960s with the Commonwealth Marriage Act and the Matrimonial Causes Act. Since then, marriage and divorce have been under federal jurisdiction.
The Family Law Act of 1975 further defined Australian divorce laws to include more benefits and rights to married couples who choose to pursue voluntary separations. This act unsurprisingly led to an increase in the divorce rate as it finally allowed for a process that is structured, fair to both parties, and mutually beneficial when handled in the right way.
Make Sure Your Separation or Divorce Is Fair
Contact us today at (08) 9214 3887 to see how we can help you understand the laws that affect your decision to separate or divorce. Call now or come see us at our Perth office to see how we can help you protect your rights while successfully breaking free of your marriage.