When a relationship breaks down, the law treats the rights of de facto couples in the same way it treats the rights of married couples under the Family Law Act 1975.
For this to apply, a relationship needs to satisfy the legal requirements for recognising that a particular relationship is “de facto”.
The Family Law Act 1975 requires that you and your former partner had a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. Among the four main questions the law asks are:
- Was the period of the relationship at least two (2) years?
- Is there a child of the relationship?
- Has the relationship been registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory?
- Have there been significant contributions made by one or both parties to the property and finances of the other?
Parties to a relationship do not need to satisfy all four questions above for the relationship to be deemed a de facto relationship. It is often sufficient to satisfy just one, although it depends on the specific circumstances of the relationship.
Other factors that the law takes into account are:
- Living arrangements;
- Whether there was a sexual relationship;
- The way finances are arranged;
- Whether any property is jointly owned;
- How any jointly owned property was bought;
- Whether the parties cared for children together; and/or
- The way the relationship was presented to the public
In determining whether a de facto relationship exists, the sex of the parties does not matter.
The laws relating to de facto relationships came into effect on 1 March 2009. This means that the laws apply to any de facto relationships that broke down on or before 1 March 2009.
Parties to a de facto relationship can make an application to the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court for parenting or property settlement proceedings as married couples do.
The court will then rely on the usual principles under the Family Law Act 1975 to determine what parenting orders or property orders should be made.