If you have been living with a person for a period of time and you want to be protected as a couple, you may wish to legally define yourselves as being in a de facto relationship.
Described under Section 4AA of the Family Law Act (1975), such a relationship may consist of two people between the same or opposite sex. It requires that the couple live together in a domestic set of circumstances, with genuine intentions of being together.
It should be noted that if you were legally married, or if you are members of the same family, then it is not a de facto relationship.
To determine that you have a relationship which would be deemed a couple, a number of circumstances are taken into consideration, which include the relationship's duration, the presence of a sexual relationship, financial dependence or interdependence, property ownership and any sort of care and support for children (if there are any).
The government's human services department expressed its recognition that each relationship is unique in its circumstances.
"We understand that not all relationships are the same. Some of these factors may not be in your relationship," it was explained.
"A decision can still be made that you are a member of a couple even if not all of these factors are not present in your relationship."
The finances of a de facto relationship are less crucial, the department expressed.
"Financial aspects can be an important factor, but lack of financial interdependence would not necessarily be a strong indicator that the claimant/recipient is not in a de facto relationship due to the increasing trend for couples to maintain separate finances.
"However, it is likely most couples in a de facto relationship will be financially intertwined in some way."
Despite these circumstances being taken into consideration, a de facto relationship can still exist, even when one of the parties is in another de facto relationship or legal marriage.
A de facto relationship that involves children can break down like a typical marriage, and as a result the Family Court and the Federal Magistrates Court treat child custody and child custody agreements in the same manner as marriages.
You should talk to an experienced family lawyer to discuss your legal options if a relationship does break down.