What you need to know about de facto relationships

It can be difficult sometimes to know how your relationship is defined by the law if you are not legally married.

Wondering if your current or past relationship is defined as de facto? Are you unsure of what this means or how it works in a court of law if you have financial disputes or children involved? See below some useful information on this topic, which may help you navigate the legal landscape and help you discern what you are entitled to in a de facto relationship.

What is a de facto relationship?

The Family Law Act 1975 defines a de facto relationship as you and your partner, who may be of the same or opposite sex, having a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. If you were legally married to one another or related by family, your relationship is not considered de facto.

The Act sets out a number of additional factors to work out whether they have a relationship as a couple.  These include, but are not limited to, the length of the relationship, whether a sexual relationship exists, whether they have children together and the mutual commitment to a shared life, just to name a few.  Just because one or some of these factors exist doesn’t mean that it is a de facto relationship, and just because one or some of the factors don’t exist doesn’t mean it isn’t a de facto relationship.  Each case is different and it is best to get specialised legal advice to work out whether a de facto relationship exists.

Financial disputes in de facto relationships

It can be said that while you are living with someone and in a relationship, this dynamic and financial situation can be similar to a circumstance where you are married. If you share assets, bank accounts and so on, things can become messy when the relationship breaks down. Parties to an eligible de facto relationship which has broken down for whatever reason can apply to the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court to have financial matters determined in virtually the same way as a married couple would.

This may benefit you if you are in a situation where financial disputes arise. You must, however, apply for de facto financial orders within two years of the breakdown of your relationship because after this time you will need the Court’s permission to apply.

Read more about de facto property settlement here.

De facto relationships and children

It can always be more complicated to settle disputes when children are involved and arguments are likely to arise. In a similar fashion to handling financial disputes, the Family Court and the Federal Circuit Court deal with issues related to the children of de facto relationships in the same way as married couples. This can help when dealing with issues such as disputes regarding parenting arrangements, relocation and travel and so on.

At Australian Family Lawyers, we are here to help you and answer any questions you may have about family law. From separations to property settlements and relocation, we are the experts. Contact us today to book an appointment.

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