De facto relationships

De facto relationships are increasing in popularity.

How to know whether you are in a de facto relationship? It will depend on your circumstances. For this reason, there isn’t an absolute definition of what it means to be in a de facto relationship.

In a de facto relationship, you have the same rights as a legally married couple. Also, the provisions of the Family Law Act will apply.

The Act defines a de facto relationship as the parties not being legally married, not being related to each other and being in a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.

There does seem to be a misconception that de facto relationships are in effect from two years onwards, but this is not the law. In Queensland, for example, a de facto relationship can be in effect from as little as a few months.

You can officially record a relationship as de facto for legal purposes. However, you do not have to register your relationship to be recognised as one. 

In New South Wales, a de facto relationship can exist even if one party is married to another person. 

Living together is only one element of the de facto status. If the court needs to establish whether you are in a de facto relationship or not, be prepared to answer specific questions.   This will help the court to establish to what extent you and your partner’s lifestyles are intermingled.

Some of the questions you may be asked if your situation needs to be assessed are: is one party financially dependent on the other? Does all your mail get sent to one address? Are you intimate with one another? What is the address registered for your Centrelink or ATO accounts? How is your relationship perceived by others?

Auditing your social media feeds is another process the court may consider in order to prove the existence of a de facto relationship. They will also look at the nature of your commitment to one another.

You can still be in a de facto relationship with someone even if you are absent from the home for long periods of time.  For example, perhaps your job keeps you away from home,  

Also, a sexual relationship does not necessarily have to be a key factor in determining whether a de facto relationship exists.  Intimacy, however, tends to be part of what characterises de facto status.

If you are considering entering into a de facto relationship, or you are in one and you are feeling some insecurity around where you stand with your financial assets, you can seek legal advice.  You may wish to formalise what would happen to your assets in the event your de facto relationship ends.  You can chat to us at Evans Testa Barristers and Solicitors, and we’ll be happy to answer any of your questions.