De facto relationship breakdown - financial matters

Date: Jun 20, 2011

If you have recently experienced the breakdown of a de facto relationship, you may be wondering how finances may be divided in the event of a split.

In Australia, recent changes to the Commonwealth family law system now ensure de facto relationship breakdowns are addressed in a similar way to divorce cases.

For example, de facto partners can now arrange for a split of one party's superannuation fund to the other - this was not previously permitted, even if both partners wanted to split their funds.

If you wish to make a financial claim following a de facto relationship breakdown, there are a number of legal requirements you must fulfil.

First, you must prove that a genuine de facto relationship existed and that it lasted for a period of at least two years.

This period does not necessarily need to be continuous and other factors - such as whether a claimant has made substantial contributions that would result in a serious injustice if a claim was not filed, or if children were born during the relationship - can be considered.

Finally, the relationship - or a substantial part of it - must have occurred in a state or territory where the Family Law Act governs de facto claims. This includes the majority of Australian states, with the exception of South Australia and Western Australia.

If the former de facto partners are also parents, these matters are also handled under the Commnwealth Family Law system.

De facto parenting matters are handled in the same way regardless of whether the parties were married, living in a de facto relationship or in a same-sex relationship.

Under the previous system, a de facto partner who was granted the primary care of children after a relationship breakdown received very little - and in some cases no - allowance for their future needs and responsibilities. This situation was in marked contrast to married partners, who were entitled to ongoing spousal support.

Now, the party who has the primary care of children gets an additional share of the net assets acquired during the duration of the relationship to account for their support.

The bulk of parenting disputes are settled thanks to careful mediation and negotiation and family lawyers work hard to ensure these agreements are reached fairly.

When these disputes cannot be resolved through these means, the parties will need to go to court.

A trusted family lawyer should be your first point of call in the event a de facto relationship breaks down - they can offer advice and support if you wish to make a claim.