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De Facto relationships: What it entails, legally and emotionally?

de facto relation

De facto relationships are substituting marriages in Australia. A heterosexual or same-sex couple can have live-in arrangements.

By definition, a de facto relationship can exist between two individuals;

  • if there is no familial relationship between them
  • if they are not legally married, and
  • if they are leading a domestic life

The de facto relationships enjoy same legal status as a marriage, with some slight variations in different states of Australia.

The Family Law Act 1975, that governs the marriage and divorce, too, govern the de facto relationships and separation. However, note that the separation of de facto partners before 1st March 2009, is governed by family law act before 2008.

In 2008, the family law act was amended with new bills, which is the current law and applies to de facto partners separating after 1st March 2009.

State and Federal Laws

The couple in a de facto relationship, who have separated before 1st March 2009, are by default come under state laws. If the de facto partners wish to be governed by Federal Law, they must meet these conditions:

  1. The couple in a de facto relationship must consent in writing that they are willing to be governed by Federal Law.
  2. The signing of the above documentation must be done after taking due legal advice from the family lawyers and after understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the decision.
  3. A signed copy of the family lawyer’s advice must be submitted along with the written consent of the partners.
  4. The de facto partners must not have entered any agreements with regards to finance and property/children/ maintenance, which is enforceable under State laws. Federal Laws cannot be applied to such conditions.

The Amended Family Law Act of 2008 gives equal legal rights to de facto partners, in terms of:

Legal Rights of De Facto Partners

Spousal maintenance: The partner can claim maintenance from the other partner if he/she is not able to support himself/herself.

Finance and property settlements: The de facto partners can settle their finances as any other legally married couple. However, the timeframe for settlement for de facto partners is 2 years, post-separation.

The de facto partners can split superannuation, enter a financial agreement, and can seek legal relief as a married couple.

Apart from the finances and living facts, there are some emotional aspects, that a court considers important to prove the partners were indeed in a de facto relationship like commitment towards their relationship, living a domestic life, sharing of things etc.

Circumstances of genuine de facto relationship

  • The couple have a sexual relationship
  • The couple share each other’s finances and properties
  • The financial arrangements, the couple have between them
  • The couple are dependent on each other: emotionally, socially and financially
  • The seriousness of commitment of the partners towards each other
  • If there is/are any child/children, how their care is arranged and shared between the partners
  • If the relationship is duly registered in any of the states
  • Length of the relationship
  • How the couple conduct in public life and the nature of their relationship
  • The partners reside together in one house

If the partners are in such circumstances, as mentioned above, for the past 2 years, they are considered as genuine de facto partners by the court.

If a couple, have had a child within 2 years of their lives together, it is still considered a genuine de facto relationship.

If any one partner has made a substantial monetary contribution to the relationship, it is too considered as a genuine de facto relationship.

Why are the above legal points important? Because the de facto partners perpetually are at the risk of being abandoned by the other partner and end up in a miserable situation. Legal coverage of de facto relationship ensures the partners are responsible towards each other. A Family Lawyer deals with all such kind of cases

I hope you pay attention to your live-in relationship, before being sorry!


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