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De Facto Relationship FAQs

What is a de facto relationship in Australia?

Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 provides that two people are considered to be in a de facto relationship if they are (a) not legally married; (b) not family relatives; and (c) for all intents and purposes, living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. There are several circumstances which must be be considered when determining if a de facto relationship exists, such as the duration of the relationship, degree of mutual commitment to a shared life, the care of children, among other criteria. A full list of circumstances is outlined at subsection (2) of section 4AA.

Is a de facto relationship the same as marriage?

Though a de facto relationship status is not achieved by way of any formal ceremony as is with a marriage, couples in a de facto relationship are largely afforded the same legal rights and protections, and in many circumstances, the same obligations as a married couple. However significant differences in requirements can be seen between a separating de facto couple versus a divorcing married couple. For a party to seek spousal maintenance orders or a property settlement out of a de facto relationship, specific criteria may be required to be proved (per subsection (2), linked above) in order to satisfy the Court that a relationship indeed existed, whereas a former husband or wife need only have been married, regardless of the circumstances of the relationship. With regard to applicable time limits, a de facto couple must file any Court proceedings within two years of the relationship ending. To the contrary, after a marriage breakdown a person has one year from the date of divorce finalisation to bring an application to the Court, even though they may have been separated for a significant period already.

How long do we need to live together to be a de facto relationship in Australia?

A minimum of twenty-four months is the duration you should be living with your partner to be considered as a de facto under the Family Law Act. Exceptions to this rule are made if there are children or substantial contributions to joint property.

Do we need to register our de facto relationship?

Registering a de facto relationship through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is not a requirement for a partnership to be lawfully recognised. Your de facto relationship will still be afforded the same rights and recognition, regardless of whether you choose to register your relationship or not. Formalisation of a relationship through registration may be recommended in certain circumstances, such as where a couple is involved with visa or immigration processes, or perhaps in drafting a financial agreement between partners (widely referred to as a ‘pre-nup’ or pre-nuptial agreement with married couples).

Can a lawyer help with de facto separation?

Absolutely! Our dedicated team at Love Family Lawyers have extensive experience in assisting with separations and family breakdowns, including those between de facto partners. Gone are the days of traditional marriage (and divorce), and we’ve certainly kept up with the times! You can be assured that we will treat your case with respect and confidentiality in order to achieve the best possible outcome for your family. Contact us today to set up a consultation.