De facto RelationshipsMarch 17, 2016 by Clewett
De facto Relationships – What defines them?
Our Family Lawyers are often asked about the true definition of de facto relationships and the legal rights surrounding this type of relationship.
According to the Family Law Act you are in a de facto relationship with another person if you are not legally married to each other, you are not related by family and you have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.
Usually in order to involve the Court’s jurisdiction, you would need to demonstrate that you have lived together for at least two years. This is irrelevant if there is a child (or children) of the relationship.
In assessing whether you are living together on a genuine domestic basis, the Court may look to
- The duration of the relationship;
- The nature and extent of common residence;
- Whether a sexual relationship exists;
- The degree of financial dependence or interdependence and arrangements for financial support;
- The ownership, use and acquisition of property;
- The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
- Whether the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State/Territory;
- Arrangements for the care and support of children; and
- The reputation and public aspects of the relationship.
No one factor should be considered more important than any other. However, it would be expected that the more factors that can be proved would help to determine that there was a de facto relationship and, conversely, the more factors that can be disproved would help establish that there was not.
Similarly, there are no minimum or maximum amounts that can be attributed to any factor, such as a minimum number of nights per week that might indicate if a ‘common residence’ has been maintained.
In 2009, the Federal Government made amendments to the Family Law Act that gave de facto couples – including same-sex couples – almost the same rights and obligations as married couples.
The Family Law Act recognises that a party could even be in multiple de facto relationships, and that even a person who is married could still be a party to de facto property proceedings.
Unlike marriage, de facto status is not entirely portable. While it is recognised in all states of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, it is not recognised in the USA and many other countries.