What is a De Facto Relationship?

The Family Law Act defines what is a de facto relationship and how the property of those parties will be dealt with in the event of a relationship breakdown.

A de facto relation exists when 2 persons of different, or the same sex are:

  1. not legally married to each other;
  2. not related by family; and
  3. living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis.

The courts consider many factors when determining if a relationship falls within the definition of a de facto relationship. These include:

  1. the duration of the relationship;
  2. whether a sexual relationship exists;
  3. the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support between them;
  4. degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  5. care and support of children; and
  6. if the relationship was registered under a prescribed law in a State or Territory;

If your relationship falls within the definition of a de facto relationship it is important that you are aware of the differences when it comes to dealing with property following a breakdown of the relationship.

De facto couples have up to two (2) years to apply for financial orders (property settlement), otherwise you will need to obtain the Court’s permission. Married couples have up to twelve (12) months following divorce to apply for orders.

Provided that you comply with the timeframes, you generally have access to the same Court systems as married couples. You are able to deal with the division of assets, maintenance, parenting and child support.

Due to the complexity in the Family Law system you may want to consider entering into a Binding Financial Agreement (‘pre-nup’) before you commence a de facto relationship. While this option is also available to married couples, it is most commonly entered into before the parties marry. A Binding Financial Agreement may provide more clarity to the division of assets should the relationship breakdown.

If you wish to discuss matters relating to de facto relationships, or entering into a Binding Financial Agreement we would be happy to assist you.

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