Should adultery be rewarded?

The Herald-Sun leads this morning with the story of an ex-mistress who, thanks to new laws legally re-defining relationships, received a $100,000 pay-out from her lover when they broke up after 20 years. The case was settled out of court after the woman’s lawyers pointed out that ‘the laws give some mistresses, as well as de facto and same-sex couples, the same rights as married couples.’

As I argued when this reform was being considered, I think the state should faciltate relationships people want to have, but not impose rules on the parties unless there are strong public policy reasons for doing so. The most important to these is to provide for the continuing care and support for children. Partners (usually women, of course) who have looked after kids should get pay-outs after relationship breakdown to encourage active parenting.

But rewarding a childless mistress seems to me to be in an entirely different category. This encourages adultery and gold-diggers, at significant emotional and financial risk to the first family. While prohibiting this kind of behaviour is pointless, it should not be encouraged by lessening the risks/increasing the rewards to those threatening existing relationships. How relationship failure between married and not-married people is dealt with should be up to the parties involved, without any legal intervention.