De Facto Relationships
What is a “de facto relationship”?
These days, relationships come in all shapes and sizes. But 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 realise it.
In Western Australia, a de facto relationship is a marriage-like relationship.
In the Northern Territory, a de facto relationship is one where the couple is living together on a genuine domestic basis.
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; and
- The reputation and public aspects of the relationship.
A de facto relationship can exist between persons of the same or opposite sex. It is also possible for a de facto relationship to exist even if one person is legally married to someone else, or in a de facto relationship with another.
Couples who don’t live together full-time, but share or mix their finances may also be in a de facto relationship.
What are the consequences of being in a de facto relationship?
De facto couples in Australia have the same, or similar rights and responsibilities as married couples upon separation. Accordingly, the same rules apply to any disputes about property settlement, spousal maintenance or parenting arrangements for your children.
De facto spouses in the Northern Territory can apply for property settlement and spousal maintenance under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), and 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:
- there has been a de facto relationship between the partners for at least 2 years; OR
- there is a child of the de facto relationship who is under 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
- 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.
- the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory (applicable only in the Northern Territory).
Additionally, for de facto couples in Western Australia:
- at least one-third of the relationship must have taken place in WA; OR
- substantial contributions made in this state; AND
- at least one de facto spouse must be living in WA on the day the application is made.
For Western Australian de facto couples, 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).
If you live in the Northern Territory, the application can be made to either the Federal Circuit Court of Australia or the Family Court of Australia.
If in doubt, we can advise you as to whether you are (or were) in a de facto relationship.