Going through a separation is a difficult time – you aren’t just dealing with overwhelming emotions and a life-changing event, you also need to organise your belongings and decide who is going where with what. It’s stressful, it’s difficult, and whether your de facto relationship is registered or not, it carries the same upset as a divorce. 

Defining De Facto Relationships 

A de facto relationship is a relationship between two unmarried people. They are not related, but they live together as a couple who share a home. There are two defining features – it’s a domestic relationship and the couple in a de facto relationship are unmarried. The law states that a couple who live together on a genuine domestic basis are in a de facto relationship. What does that mean? There are a variety of factors to help you define whether your relationship is classified as a de facto relationship. 

  • Whether there are shared finances or one partner was financially dependent on the other.
  • Whether there are shared children.
  • How others perceive the couple.
  • Whether the pair are or have been intimate with each other.
  • Whether the pair have committed to living life together.
  • How long the couple has dwelled under the same roof and the nature of the household.
  • Whether the couple has acquired property or owns joint assets
  • Whether the de facto relationship was registered. 

Couples in New South Wales can register their de facto relationship online to ensure it is legally recognised. However, it is not required. There are benefits to registering your de facto relationship – it gives you legal recognition, and it allows you to plan super funds and Wills with ease. It is wise to register a de facto relationship if you do not have children or do not plan to have children if your relationship doesn’t meet the required standard for legal rights. 

You can register the relationship if – both people in the couple are over 18, at least one of you lives in NSW, neither party is already married or in a registered relationship, neither party is in an existing relationship, and the couple is not related. Once you register a de facto relationship you have the necessary proof to give you the same rights under Australian law as married couples have. 

Everything You Need to Know About De Facto Separations & Property Settlements 

The rules for married couples and de facto relationships are similar. The main difference between a divorce property settlement and a de facto split is the property settlement time limit. You have two years from the time of your separation to agree to the division of your property pool. 

When it comes to property settlement, de facto couples have the same rights as married couples do. And the rules are not different if the de facto relationship was registered. A legally registered relationship does make the process easier, but it is not necessary. If the relationship is not registered, you need to prove that you were in a legitimate de facto relationship by proving you have a child or you were together for at least two years. Once this is established, the property pool includes bank accounts, investments, shares, real estate, superannuation, business assets, debts, and personal property. 

When your relationship ends, the court will determine what property is held and its value, it will assess the contributions of each party (both financial and non-financial), consider each of the party’s future needs, and determine whether the proposed division is fair. 

If there are children involved then the relationship co-habiting rule does not apply. You may be entitled to receive or required to pay child maintenance. If one party reduced their working hours or left their job in order to care for the children, then the other party may be required to pay spousal maintenance. Property division may benefit one party over the other if they made significant contributions to the relationship, whether it was financial or a non-financial contribution such as giving up work to provide childcare. 

A short-term de facto relationship is one that does not include children, is not registered, and the couple has co-habited for fewer than two years. In these situations, the court is unlikely to hear a claim unless you can prove you made significant non-financial or financial contributions to the point where it would be a grave injustice were you not allowed to make a claim. All property settlements are complicated, but short-term de facto relationship claims are even more complicated and require legal experts to proceed. 

How AJB Stevens Can Help 

If you are separating from a de facto relationship or a marriage, then you need experienced professional lawyers to handle the property settlement after separation. Hiring a lawyer doesn’t mean your breakup is acrimonious, it means you want to protect your interests and ensure you get your fair share. It also means people with a full understanding of the law and property settlement process can handle the details while you start planning the next chapter of your life. If you need family law property settlement lawyers, reach out to AJB Stevens to book an appointment and make this process as smooth as possible.