Melbourne, Nov 12 : Philandering husbands will soon have to pay "spousal maintenance" to their mistresses even after their relationship has ended.
Under the Family Law Act reforms, de facto partners together for two years will get the same rights as married couples, and the mistress will have every right to lay a claim or seek financial support from the man with the court's help.
According to The Courier-Mail, this is just one of the outcomes that is set to arise from laws on broken de facto relationships that will take effect early next year.
The law allows the other party that is "unable to support herself or himself adequately" to seek maintenance after the separation, but legal experts warn the amended Act, passed in the Senate on November 10, 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", but a de facto alliance can exist even if one of the partners is legally married to somebody else or in another de facto relationship.
Veteran Brisbane family lawyer Paul Hopgood said that the door was ajar for jilted lovers to seek maintenance orders.
"I get high-profile people from around town saying, 'I'm having an (affair) with so and so. I wine and dine her and take her on holidays. I look after her and it's been going on for five years. But I'm safe - she hasn't got the key to my house'," News.com.au quoted Hopgood as saying.
"You don't have to live in the same house and under the same roof to be a de facto. A lot of people are living in de facto relationships and don't think they are," he said.
Hopgood cited a couple who might not share a home because of international business commitments.
"If everything else is there, apart from the common residence, they've still got a de facto relationship," he stated.
For polygamist husbands, this will be quite a big nightmare as Queensland Law Society family law chairman Julie Harrington says his other wives will have the same rights.
"In polygamy, you have only one marriage that's recognised, so you have wives two, three and four as the de factos," she said.
"At least those women will now have some rights which they otherwise didn't (have) under the Family Law Act," she added.
With married couples, maintenance orders generally end when the ex-partner receiving the money remarries, the same rule now applies to de facto relationships.
The Family Law Amendment (De Facto Financial Matters and Other Measures) Act aims to end discrimination in the treatment of married and unmarried couples after separation.