The Family Law Specialists

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.

Children

The Family Law Act 1975 provides for arrangements of children to a de-facto relationship upon separation. These matters are dealt with by the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court.

If an agreement is unable to be reached regarding the care of the children, the parties must, as in the case of married couples, participate in family dispute resolution prior to initiating an application with the court. There is an exception in circumstances of family violence or very urgent applications.

We are able to assist with this family dispute resolution process. CLICK HERE to read about our service.

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.