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Demystifying Defacto Relationships – a Legal FAQ

What Does the Term De Facto Mean?

The Family Law Act recognises your relationship as “de facto” if you live together as a couple regardless of your sex. The Act treats de facto relationships differently from marriage in that if the existence of such a relationship or its length is disputed, proof will be required and a Court may have to make a determination on the issue in dispute.

Does Just Sharing a House with Someone Define Being in a De Facto Relationship?

No, the law requires that you and your former partner, who may be of the same or opposite sex, had a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. However, your relationship is not a de facto relationship if you were legally married to one another or if you are related by family.

How is De Facto Different from Marriage?

Once a relationship is found to exist, parties to de facto relationships are treated no differently to parties who are married.

The process for undoing your financial relationship is the same, regarding financial issues and asset division. Similarly, the relevant law if there are children of the relationship applies to all parents, regardless of the kind of relationship they are in.

However, where there is a de facto relationship, parties have two years from the date of separation to commence court proceedings for a property settlement. In a marriage, parties have twelve months from the date their divorce order comes into effect to commence court proceedings for a property settlement.

How are Bank Accounts, Property and Assets Divided in De Facto Relationships?

De facto couples who separated before 1 March 2009 have the right to apply to the Family Court for a property settlement if both parties agree. 

De facto couples who separated after 1 March 2009 have the right to apply to the Family Court for a property settlement without the other party’s consent provided that the application is made within the required time limits (please refer to our section on time limits). 

The Court will only make Orders for a property settlement if:

  • The de facto relationship has lasted 2 years or more; or
  • There is a child of the de facto relationship; or
  • One party made a significant contribution to the relationship and there would be injustice if the Court did not make an Order for property settlement; or
  • The de facto relationship is or was registered under a law of a State or Territory. 

Contact Us for Help with De Facto Legal Issues

If you have more questions about de facto relationships or need more information, book an appointment with our experienced family law solicitors at Robert Wood and Associates. Call our office on (03) 9762 3877 or simply contact us online.

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