De-Facto Relationships

A de-facto relationship exists if you are in a relationship with another person but are not legally married to each other, you are not related by family and you have a genuine domestic couple relationship. The Family Law Act 1975 makes provisions for de-facto relationships.

Considerations in deciding if a de-facto relationship exists:

  • Common residence;
  • Duration of the relationship (generally 2 years, exception if a child is of the relationship);
  • If it is sexual in nature;
  • Financial dependence and support;
  • Jointly owned property;
  • Mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • Children;
  • Public aspects of the relationship

If you are considered to be in a de-facto relationship you have responsibilities and rights that are similar to those of married couple.

Of particular importance is that you have similar rights and responsibilities during the following events:

Death of a partner

The following may apply to you:

  • Interest in the deceased estate under the Succession Act;
  • Financial assistance under the Succession Act;
  • Receive workers compensation if death is during the course of employment;
  • Claim social security.

Property settlement

The Family Law Act 1975 sets out the principles for determining financial disputes after the breakdown of a de-facto relationship.

These principles involve:

  • Considering the assets and debts of the parties;
  • Considering the financial contribution of each party;
  • Looking at the non-financial contributions of each party;
  • Considering all future needs and requirements of the parties.

Similarly to property settlements of married couples, a de-facto relationship property settlement will be based on individual circumstances of the relationship.

There is a time limit of 2 years to make a property application after the breakdown of a relationship.

Spousal maintenance

Section 72 of the Family Law Act 1975 provides for maintenance for married and de-facto relationships. Spousal maintenance is only appropriate when one party is unable to work due to lost earning capacity, or when a party is unable to work because they are the primary carer of a child.

Generally, there are three considerations:

  • Whether the person applying for the maintenance has a genuine financial need;
  • Whether that person is exercising a reasonable attempt to support themselves;
  • Whether the person that must provide the support has the capacity to do so.

The maintenance can be specific to a certain time period and can be varied by the court if circumstances change.

Registering a relationship

It is possible to register a de-facto relationship document, or certificate that can then be used as proof of the relationship.

Our team can assist you registering a de-facto relationship, and support you through the processes post separation.