Are you dating or in a de facto relationship? What are the legal implications?

Are you dating or in a de facto relationship? What are the legal implications? - Resolve Conflict Family LawyersRelationships come in all shapes and sizes, however if your relationship ends, the difference between ‘just dating’ and a ‘de facto’ relationship can have an immense impact on you financially. You see, if you and your partner separate, they (or you) can apply to the Court for a determination about how your assets will be divided, including separately owned assets, if you are deemed to have been in a ‘de facto relationship’.

De facto relationship defined

A de facto relationship is defined in Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 as two parties, who may be of the same or opposite sex, having a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. However, the relationship is not a de facto relationship if they are legally married to one another or if they are related by family.

Related Article: What Determines A De Facto Relationship?

What the Courts consider when determining a de facto relationship

  • 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 or relationship
  • The care and support of children
  • The reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

None of these factors are solely influential, and parties are not required to establish all of the above factors for the Court to find the existence of a de facto relationship.

Ultimately, each case will be determined on its own facts and there is no ‘rule of thumb’ about whether or not a de facto relationship exists.

Legal consequences of a de facto relationship

If you’re in a de facto relationship, there will be property and financial consequences arising on the breakdown of your relationship under the Family Law Act. Essentially the same law on property settlements and spousal maintenance which applies to married couples, applies to de facto couples.

Separated from your de facto and what to make a claim?

Note, there is a time limit to make a claim for property settlement of two years, from the date of your separation. That is, you must make an application to the court asking for orders to divide property within two years of the relationship breaking down. Otherwise, you need permission from the court to bring a claim if more than two years have passed since you separated.

Note: This is general information advice only and does not constitute specific legal advice. If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters, please contact us on 03 9620 0088 or email


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