Since 1 March 2009 de facto couples across Australia have had substantially the same rights and liabilities as married couples in relation to financial and property settlements. Once a relationship becomes a de facto relationship, a Federal Court has the power to adjust the financial and property interests of the parties following separation.
The Court is required to look at several factors when determining whether a person is in a de facto relationship with another person including:
- the duration – it can be short
- the nature of cohabitation – it can be sporadic
- whether a sexual relationship exists – there doesn’t need to be one at all
- the degree of financial dependence or interdependence and arrangements for financial support between them – do you have joint bank accounts?
- the ownership, use and acquisition of joint property – are you both on title?
- the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life – a shared email address
- whether the relationship has been registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory as a prescribed kind of relationship
- care and support of children of the relationship or of one party’s children from any earlier relationship – who else ‘lives’ with you?
- the reputation and public aspects of the relationship – do you tell others you are a couple?
On the duration of a de facto relationship, generally any couple who has been living in a de facto relationship for a period of two years (whether that two year period is one continuous period or several periods of not less than two years in total) will come under the jurisdiction of the Family Law Act 1975.
However, there are exceptions which allow a Court to determine a relationship of less than two years duration, was a de facto relationship, including where there is a child of the relationship, where one party made significant “contributions” (be it financial, parenting, home making, caring or the like) to the relationship in a period of less than two years or where a relationship has been registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory.
Seek our advice to determine where you stand and whether a relationship agreement (like a pre-nup) would be useful to you. Contact a member of our Family Law Team and we will be delighted to assist you.