The following is an extract from an article published at the website in November:

“PHILANDERING husbands could soon be forced by the courts to keep paying for their mistresses after an affair ends. That is just one outcome set to arise from laws on broken de facto relationships that will take effect early next year, The Courier-Mail reports.

Under the Family Law Act reforms, de facto partners together for two years will get the same rights as married couples to seek “spousal maintenance” claims. Maintenance, as distinct from child support, may be ordered when the other party is “unable to support herself or himself adequately” following separation.

But legal experts warn the amended Act — passed in the Senate on Monday — opens the definition of a de facto couple to wide interpretation. It prescribes a de facto relationship as an opposite-sex or same-sex couple “living together on a genuine domestic basis”.”

Click here to view to full article.

Owen-Brown and Booth (2003) have reported that costs associated with divorce, including social security payments and court proceedings, run close to a staggering 3 billion dollars a year in Australia alone. Divorce has recently been reported to be the number one ‘wealth buster’ of all the financial hazards in life (Featherstone, 2006).

In a society where costs associated with marriages and divorces are already high, what do you think will be the consequences of such a development? And how will that affect counsellors and other mental health service providers?

As an example, many couples that are faced with infidelity in their marriage may seek counselling to “save” their relationship. Normally the first step in this process would be to cease the affair, and then work towards re-developing trust and intimacy in the relationship. Emotionally, it is vital for the couple (particularly the person who has been “betrayed”) to be able to draw a line which represents the end of the affair, and the start of a new story. It assists them to put their differences in the past, and working towards a productive future.

However, if one is legally obliged to support their affair de-facto partner (which essentially means a financial burden for the couple or family as a whole) the relationship healing context becomes much more complex. For as long as there is legally-binding obligation to provide financial support, there is an emotionally-distressing reminder of the affair. Can couples overcome such a situation? How could counselling professionals develop specific strategies and skills to assist clients suppress this situation?

Many questions can arise from this topic — we want to know your thoughts. Do you agree with it? How would you assist clients (e.g. a couple) to deal with this situation? Would this change add a new area for pre-marriage counsellors to cover?