Meeting Definition of 'Spouse' (s.5F) When Having Extra-marital Encounter

In the case of Cao v Minister for Immigration & Anor [2007] FMCA 225 (21 March 2007), Riley J noted that:

It is a matter of fact and degree in the circumstances of the particular case whether an extra-marital sexual encounter indicates a lack of the required commitment to a shared life as husband and wife to the exclusion of all others.

The regulations mean that a person is not a spouse as defined if he or she is party to another marriage-like relationship.

Sex is only one part of such relationships and is obviously not unique to such relationships. Sex does not, of itself, mean that the relationship in which it occurs is a marriage-like relationship.

The regulations do not exclude a person from being a spouse as defined if he or she engages in an extra-marital sexual encounter, provided that it is not in the context of a second marriage-like relationship and provided that he or she continues to have a commitment to a shared life as husband and wife with his or her spouse.

It is a matter of common knowledge that there are people who remain in their marriages for 20 or 30 years or more but who nevertheless during that time have numerous, short term, extramarital sexual encounters involving no significant emotional investment.

It is also a matter of common knowledge that, sometimes, a person has an extramarital affair which ends after a time and the marriage continues.

In other cases, a person who has an extramarital affair eventually leaves the marriage and goes on to build a new life as husband and wife with the person with whom he or she had the affair. In such cases, there is obviously a point where the commitment to the first marriage ends.

It is a matter for the Tribunal as the finder of fact to determine in all of the circumstances of the particular case whether or not an extramarital sexual encounter of one of the parties to a marriage reflects a lack of commitment to a shared life as husband and wife with the other party to the marriage, and whether or not it reflects the formation of a second marriage-like relationship.

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