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How Are De Facto Relationships Defined Legally?

In Family and Relationship Law, the process of dividing assets for de facto couples after separation is similar to that of married couples. However, specific criteria must be met to classify a relationship as a ‘de facto relationship.’

As defined by the Family Law Act 1975, a de facto relationship exists when individuals who are not legally married live together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. Sometimes disputes arise regarding whether a de facto relationship truly exists. If it is determined that no de facto relationship exists, the legal rights and entitlements to property division under family law will not apply. This determination can significantly impact the individuals involved, making it crucial to establish the existence or absence of a de facto relationship when it is not evident.

The court considers various circumstances to determine the existence of a de facto relationship, including:

  1. Duration of the relationship
  2. Nature and extent of common residence
  3. Existence of a sexual relationship
  4. Degree of financial interdependence
  5. Ownership, use, and acquisition of property
  6. Level of mutual commitment to a shared life
  7. Registration of the relationship (if applicable)
  8. Care and support of children
  9. Reputation and public aspects of the relationship

These circumstances may be supported by evidence such as joint bank accounts, rental agreements, photographs together, and invitations from friends to events like weddings.

It is important to emphasize that for a de facto relationship to be recognized, the parties must have lived together on a genuine domestic basis. If cohabitation did not exceed two years during the relationship, it may be challenging to establish a de facto relationship, although each case is unique. If unsure about whether you were in a de facto relationship, seeking independent legal advice is advised.

One crucial point to remember is that if you were in a de facto relationship, you have only up to two years after separation to apply to the court for a family law property division.

If you need guidance regarding the requirements of a de facto relationship, your entitlements after separation from your de facto partner, or how to divide property in such cases, our team can provide you with the necessary legal advice and support.