How does the law define a De Facto Relationship

04/07/2017

This is a question that we are often asked by clients intending to enter into or are at the tail end of a de facto relationship and are seeking clarification as to exactly what defines a de facto relationship so that they may understand the legal ramifications of entering into or ending a de facto in particular in relation to property/financial matters.

Under the Family Law Act 1975 (the Act) a relationship is a de facto if:

  1. The persons are not legally married to each other; and
  2. The persons are not related by family; and
  3. The couple are living together on a ‘genuine domestic basis’.

The factors that are considered when determining if two people are in a genuine de facto relationship include but are not limited to:

  1. The duration of the relationship;
  2. The nature and extent of the common residence;
  3. Whether a sexual relationship exists;
  4. The degree of financial dependence or independence between the couple and any arrangements for financial support;
  5. The ownership, use and acquisition of any property;
  6. The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  7. The support of any children;
  8. The reputation or public aspects of the relationship to others.

The Family Law Act also provides circumstances in which a de facto relationship can be the subject of proceedings in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia between the parties.

For proceedings to be the subject of the jurisdiction of the Court the de facto relationship must be:

  1. either at least 2 years duration; or
  2. if the relationship is less than 2 years if there is a child to the relationship or a party made significant or other substantial contributions to a property.

If the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia has jurisdiction the Court will consider the dispute and make an appropriate order.

It is important that proper consideration be given to all factual matters.  Not only will those factual matters be the basis of whether there is a de facto relationship it will also give rise to issues as to the length of the de facto relationship and other matters that the Court must consider determining in the appropriate property adjustment (if any) between the parties.

If you have any questions relating to a de facto relationship or possible de facto relationship please contact Richard Watson or his Personal Assistant Shereen Da Gloria who will be able to provide assistance to you in relation to this very important issue.

This is only a preliminary view and is not to be taken as legal advice without first contacting Watson & Watson Solicitors on 9221 6011.

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