3 Things You Need To Know About De Facto Relationship Law

Milos Supljeglav
Managing Director
Accredited Family Law Specialist

Posted on 19/04/2017, Last Updated on 20/03/2019

There are a lot of misconceptions about de facto relationships, especially when it comes to what happens when a de facto couple separates. In fact, many de facto couples themselves don’t even know where they stand legally. That’s why it’s important to find out sooner rather than later in the event of a separation.

Here are a few things we at the DS Family Law team think you need to know about de facto relationship law.

1. Defining the Relationship

These days, relationships come in all shapes and sizes. So the first question you need to ask yourself is: Am I in a de facto relationship? At what point does your girlfriend or boyfriend become your de facto partner? You could already be in a de facto relationship and not even know it.

When determining if the relationship is de facto, the Court must decide whether the relevant couple were living together in a marriage-like relationship. The following factors are indicators of whether or not a de facto relationship exists between two persons:

  • The duration of the relationship
  • The nature and extent of the common residence
  • Whether a sexual relationship exists
  • The degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangement for financial support
  • The ownership, use and acquisition of property
  • The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life
  • The care and support of children
  • The reputation and public aspects of the relationship

The relationship is also considered a de facto one regardless of whether the parties are the same or opposite sex, or if one of the parties is legally married to someone else, or in another de facto relationship.

Couples who don’t live together full-time, but share or mix their finances may also be considered de facto.

If you are still unsure whether your relationship would be classified as de facto, be safe and seek further legal advice from an experienced family law professional. You will then be armed with the knowledge you require to, if necessary, protect your assets in the event of separation (for example, by entering into a financial agreement).

2. Knowing Your Rights

Since 2002, de facto couples in Western Australia have had similar rights and responsibilities as married couples. So in most cases (but not all), the same rules apply and any disputes over your children and property will be treated by law in the same way as a separation or divorce for a married couple.

In Western Australia, de facto spouses can apply for property settlement and spousal maintenance under the Family Court Act 1997 (WA), in the following circumstances:

  1. there has been a de facto relationship between the partners for a least 2 years; OR
  2. there is a child of the de facto relationship who has not yet attained the age of 18 years and failure to make the order would result in serious injustice to the partner caring or responsible for the child; OR
  3. the de facto partner who applies for the order made substantial contributions and failure to make the order would result in serious injustice to the partner.


  1. at least one third of the relationship must have taken place in WA; OR
  2. substantial contributions made in this state; AND
  3. at least one de facto spouse must be living in WA on the day the application is made.

The application may be made in the Magistrates Court (if you live in a regional area), or in the Family Court of Western Australia (if you live in the Perth metropolitan area).

3. Seek Legal Advice

It is essential when you separate to seek legal advice before making any decisions about your assets so that you know what you are entitled to. That way, you can make the right decisions and ensure that you are set up for the future in the best way possible.

Here at DS Family Law, we have the knowledge, dedication and experience to help you during this difficult time. Our family lawyers have been practising in this specific field for many years and are fully equipped to deliver the best possible result for you and your family. Our dedicated De Facto relationship law page contains additional information and resources that can help you gain a further understanding of the law and the services we offer.

Get in touch with us today.

The above does not constitute specific legal advice but is general information only.

Let’s meet, and figure it out

For practical advice about what you should do next, please call to arrange a no-obligation initial consultation.