When you’ve been living with someone for a long time and your circumstances suddenly change, this is going to have some impact on you. Married couples can rest assured that many of their rights are protected under the Family Law Act (1975) but what happens with de facto relationships? 

Since 2009, de facto couples have had similar and in many cases the same rights as married couples, and are also covered under the act. In fact, de facto couples in same sex relationships are also treated the same under the current laws. So, what is a de facto relationship?

De Facto Relationships Under the Law

The Family Law Act defines de facto relationships as a couple living together on a “genuine domestic basis”. This applies to couples who are not already legally married or related by family. Generally, a “genuine domestic” relationship is defined by living together for at least two years, or having a child from the relationship.  Other factors of the relationship that are considered include: 

  • The extent of common residence
  • The amount of financial interdependence
  • The ownership of property
  • The nature of the relationship (including sexual relationships)
  • The care and support of children 

Under the law, you can be part of a de facto relationship if you are also part of a married couple or another de facto relationship.

Property Settlement Rights and Responsibilities

Just like married couples, de facto couples who separate have a range of options when it comes to dividing assets. 

De facto couples can choose to make advanced plans in the form of financial agreements. These agreements can be drawn up at the beginning of a relationship or once it breaks down. After seeking independent legal and financial advice, both parties can sign the agreement to make it legally binding. 

When no prior agreement has been made, property orders can be applied for through the courts to divide assets. In these hearings the courts will consider a range of factors in asset division. These include: 

  • Financial and non-financial contributions
  • Future needs – in terms of age, health, earning capacity and more
  • The effect of the proposed settlement on both parties
  • Whether the proposed settlement is “just and equitable” for both parties 

Children’s Issues

Issues relating to custody, parenting, financial contributions and more are all covered under the Family Law Act and through the Family and Federal Courts. 

When an agreement cannot be reached between parties a parenting order can be applied for through the courts, where a decision is reached by considering the best interests of the children. 

Just like in other circumstances, the primary carer of children in a de facto relationship can claim also child support. This can be resolved privately, or through the Child Support Agency. 

If you’re part of a de facto relationship and you want to know your rights, it’s always best to consult a lawyer. If your relationship has broken down and you want to know what to do next, Bartels Lawyers can assist you. Our de facto relationship specialists can help you to understand your situation, and represent you every step of the way.

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