In this day and age it’s often misconceived what being in a de facto relationship actually means.

Put simply, in the eyes of the Australian law, a de facto relationship is a relationship between two adult persons that:

  1. live together as a couple; and
  2. are not married to one another or related.

There is no need to have a ceremony or register your relationship to obtain “de facto status”. Rather, the Court will take into consideration a variety of factors to determine whether your relationship fits the bill as to what is de facto relationship.

These important factors are:

  1. The length of your relationship;
  2. Whether you and the other person resided together;
  3. Whether a sexual relationship existed;
  4. Financial interdependence, such as pooled funds or joint accounts;
  5. The ownership, use and acquisition of property (including property owned individually);
  6. Whether there are any biological children;
  7. The care and support of children from this or prior relationships;
  8. The performance of household duties;
  9. The degree of mutual commitment and support; and
  10. The public reputation of your relationship as seen by other people (for example, did you go to events as a couple or would someone on the street who saw you in public think you are a couple?).

Often it can be said, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Even if these elements exist or existed the relationship must have lasted a minimum duration of two years before any Orders can be made, unless there have been substantial contributions by either party, or there is a child of the relationship.

De facto relationships also don’t distinguish between same sex and heterosexual relationships, and it doesn’t matter if a party is legally married to someone else or in another de facto relationship at the same time.

It can be a tricky area to untangle, but it’s important to know that if a Court determines you were in a de facto relationship, then a property settlement and division of assets can follow.

An application to the Court must be made within two years from the date on which the de facto relationship ended in order to protect your rights to a property settlement. Exceptions are sometimes made on this but they are just that, exceptions. Better to be safe than sorry.

Contact one of our expert family lawyers today for advice on your de facto status and potential property settlement entitlements and obligations.

Learn more about de facto relationships in this article: What is a De Facto Relationship?