De facto property settlement: What are your rights and entitlements?

It’s important to understand your rights and entitlements as part of a de facto relationship. For almost the last decade, de facto couples across Australia have received similar rights and obligations as married couples, and so similar rules may apply for separation for separated de facto couples, as would be applied in a divorce.

Defining a de facto relationship

Before being able to understand your de facto rights and entitlements, you must first be able to define your relationship as de facto. This will help in any property disputes that may arise. A court will generally take into account things like:

  • How long you have been together
  • The ownership of your property
  • Your financial involvement
  • The nature and extent of your common residence and so on.

Whether there are children and the nature of their care and support will also be considered.

De facto property settlement: Time limits and applications

De facto property settlement holding key

Under the Family Law Act, a party to a de facto relationship can bring an application for a property settlement within two years of the relationship ending. Outside this period, the application can only be made with court permission. 

It is best to obtain legal advice early from an experienced family law solicitor to ensure the time limits are complied with, or for advice, if you have any concerns that you may be outside the two year period. A qualified lawyer will be able to talk you through the process and your separation entitlements and ensure you are following the proper procedure to achieve your desired outcome.

Property adjustment conditions

There are of course conditions that must be met for a de facto party who wishes to apply for property adjustment or maintenance orders.

At least one of the following conditions must be met:

  • the de facto relationship must have lasted a minimum of two years
  • a child exists as a result of the de facto relationship (must be a child to both parties)
  • substantial contributions were made to the assets or the welfare of the family by the Applicant and failing to make an order would result in a serious injustice to the applicant
  • the relationship is registered

If at least one of these conditions is met, the Family Law Act provisions can apply, but you should check first with your lawyer as every situation is different and the amount of your entitlement, if any, can vary on a case by case basis.

Read more about asset splitting and settlement for separated couples here.

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