Are you in a de facto relationship?

Date: Dec 11, 2013

You may be familiar with the term "de facto relationship", but do you know what it means?

The following should hopefully shed a bit of light on this term. If you need further advice, get in touch with one of the family lawyers at Craddock Murray Neumann.

What is a de facto relationship?

Under the Property (Relationships) Act, a de facto relationship is defined as a partnership between two adults who are not and never were married, living together as a couple and are not related to each other in any way (e.g. parent and child, brother and sister).

Both parties must be at least 18 years old to be considered part of a de facto relationship.

In 1999, the term "de facto relationship" as defined by the Property (Relationships) Act was broadened to include all couples that meet the above criteria. That means all members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community are included.

According to the Law Society of New South Wales, those who have been identified as members of a de facto relationship will often have the same rights as a married couple. This is important to keep in mind if you're in the midst of estate planning.

Why? Because if your de facto partner dies without a will (also know as dying intestate), you could be entitled to a part of their estate or financial support - just like a wife or husband would be.

This is not always the case though, so if you are in this situation you may need to speak with a lawyer who specialises in estate disputes.

How is "de facto relationship" status determined?

The Guide to Social Security Law, published by the government of Australia, states that a number of factors are taken into consideration when determining whether or not a couple is in a de facto relationship.

There are five main ones, however, which include:

- the couple's finances (e.g. whether you and your partner are supporting each other financially, or both your names are on lease agreements and mortgage applications)
- the "nature of the household" (e.g. your living arrangements and how chores around the house are shared)
- the presence (or absence) of a sexual relationship (e.g. whether this is ongoing and exclusive)
- the "social aspects" of the partnership (e.g. if society - including you and your partner's co workers, friends and family - views you as a couple, and if there's evidence that you take part in leisure activities together)
- the nature of your commitment to each other (e.g. whether there's a close, emotional attachment between you and your partner and are you both equally committed to the relationship)

Such evidence would be used to decide the outcome of legal cases, such as child custody battles, involving persons who are not married.

What happens if a de facto relationship breaks down?

If you apply to the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court within two years of calling your de facto relationship quits, any property settlement agreements between you and your partner will be dealt with as if you were a married couple.

Should more than two years have passed, you may be entitled to make a claim in some circumstances - particularly if you have a child together.

Would you like to know more? Then get in touch with Craddock Murray Neumann today for support and family law advice. We can help you understand your rights as a member of a de facto relationship.