Regardless of a relationship’s nature, deciding to end it can be a difficult and emotional experience. But when it comes to de facto relationships, many couples are not aware of the relevant legal obligations and implications of separation.


What is a De Facto relationship?

Because each relationship is uniquely different, there are no one-size-fits-all rules when courts are deciding a de facto relationship. That being said, the basic definition of a de facto relationship in Australia is defined in the Family Law Act 1975 as a couple living together in a genuine domestic situation who are not married or related to each other. Couples can also be either the same or opposite gender to be considered to be in a de facto relationship. 

Each relationship will be examined individually, with specific circumstances taken into consideration by the courts such as financial dependence, whether the relationship is sexual, and how long the couple has been together, including previous periods of separation. The length of time for couples to be considered de facto is usually 2 years, but there can be exceptions to this rule, especially if children are involved or there have been significant financial or even non-financial contributions to property.

What are your rights during a relationship split?

When a de facto relationship is over, the process for separation is very similar to the process when a marriage ends, without the divorce proceedings. While there are no requirements to fill out any forms or go through the Courts, separating de facto partners have a limit of up to two years after the end of their relationship to finalise arrangements regarding property or maintenance. 

However, if both parties aren’t able to separate amicably and agree on terms for the division of assets, they will need to apply to the Court for assistance. When it comes to dealing with financial issues, property settlements can be applied for under the same laws that apply to married couples. Under these laws, the courts can order a division of property whether it is owned separately or together, spousal maintenance can be ordered, and even the superannuation of each partner can also be split.

What happens to your assets & children?

If your relationship meets the criteria of being de facto, not only can your property be divided, but spousal maintenance might also be possible. And just because an asset was in your name before you started dating does not exclude it from the pool of assets that may be divided. Contrary to popular belief, there are no legal requirements that property settlements must be divided equally between both parties. Ultimately, the Family Law Courts will decide what is just and equitable for both parties involved based on each individuals’ circumstances.

When children are involved during a de facto separation, they are protected under the Family Law Act which outlines responsibilities of the parents. The courts will consider both parties to be responsible for all parental duties regarding their children, irrespective of any new partnerships or other separation matters.

How can AJB Stevens help

If you are considering separating from your de facto partner or you have already separated, it is important to receive advice as early as possible so you know exactly where you stand and what your legal rights, responsibilities, obligations, and entitlements are. Our understanding and experienced family lawyers have extensive knowledge of all legal issues regarding the breakdown of de facto relationships as well as the dissolution of a marriage. Call us today to find out more.