What are my rights in a de facto relationship?

Date: Jul 10, 2014

Individuals in de facto relationships are often entitled to the same rights as married couples. In a de facto relationship you may be entitled to a share of the other's estate, or able to claim for financial support should your de facto partner die without a will. 

De facto relationships

A de facto relationship is defined in s 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 as a relationship where the two people are not married to each other, they are not biologically related and they share a domestic living arrangement. 

A number of factors are taken into consideration to determine whether two individuals were in a de facto relationship. Some of these factors are, but are not limited to: the duration of the relationship, common residence, if a sexual relationship existed, financial arrangements and care and support of children. 

Property and maintenance rights

The Family Law Act gives de facto couples the same rights as married couples regarding the distribution of property. If your relationship broke down on or after March 1 2009 you can apply to the family courts for a property settlement. If you and your partner ended your relationship before this date you can still apply to the family courts, however both parties in the relationship need to agree in writing that the new laws will apply. If both parties do not agree to the new laws, you may be able to apply for property settlement through the New South Wales state court.  Both parties must obtain independent legal advice. 

To apply for property or maintenance issues at the family court your submission must be made within two years of the relationship ending unless special circumstances apply - for instance, if there are children involved. Decisions on property settlements include individual and joint assets, contributions made by both parties during the relationship, and the parties' future needs. The court may order a transfer of assets, ongoing maintenance expenses and sale and division of the family home. Superannuation may also be split. 

Child custody and support

If you and your previous partner share a child, then you may be able to claim child support and apply for child custody, it does not matter if it was a same sex relationship or a heterosexual relationship.

You are likely to be liable for child support if your name appears on the birth certificate of the child or there is a statutory declaration signed stating you are the parent.

A lawyer can help you understand your rights as part of a de facto couple in child custody agreements, property settlements or estate disputes.