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13 June 2018

Am I in a de facto relationship?

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This is a question we are often asked by clients and in today’s society the answer is not always straightforward.

Section 4AA of the Family Law Act defines a de facto relationship as one where the persons are not married to each other, not related and where, having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. But what does this mean?

The case law is interesting. A common residence is not essential and you can even be married and in a de facto relationship at the same time.

When deciding whether a de facto relationship exists the Court looks at all the circumstances of the relationship including the matters listed below.

  • The duration of the relationship
  • The nature and extent of their common residence
  • Whether a sexual relationship exists
  • The degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between them
  • The ownership, use and acquisition of their property;
  • The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • Whether the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory as a prescribed kind of relationship;
  • The care and support of children;
  • The reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

The above list is not exhaustive and the Court, when determining whether a de facto relationship exists, is entitled to have regard any matters it considers appropriate and attach such weight as it considers appropriate to those matters in the circumstances of the case.

If the existence of the de facto relationship is in dispute the Court may conduct a discreet hearing in relation to that issue.

There are strict time limitations that apply in bringing an application for property settlement in de facto matters. If you require assistance with a de facto matter you should contact one of our expert family lawyers for advice.

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