Top 5 Misconceptions About De Facto Relationships You Need To Stop Believing

Top 5 Misconceptions About De Facto Relationships You Need To Stop Believing - Resolve Conflict Family Lawyers

De facto relationships often have people confused. It’s not uncommon to hear outlandish statements like; “If you’re not married you’re not entitled to claim anything if the relationship ends”, or “You have to be in a relationship for a minimum of two years before it is legally considered a de facto relationship”.

The following article seeks to debunk some of the most common misconceptions about de facto relationships.

Firstly, a de facto relationship is defined by Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 when you and your partner, of same or opposite sex, are engaged in a relationship as a couple living together on a mutual, genuine and domestic basis. The exception to this definition is if you are married to one another or related by family.

Misconception #1: If you don’t live full time with your partner it’s not a de facto relationship

Not true! By law you do not need to live full time with your partner for the relationship to be counted as a de facto relationship. There are relationships called “de facto by distance”, which means even though you may not live together exclusively full time, you do stay at each other’s houses when you’re in each other’s local space.

Misconception #2: If the relationship ends, you are not obliged to split assets

All de facto couples have the same rights as married couples under the Family Law Act in relation to the distribution of property. However, to make an application for a ‘de facto property settlement’ under the Family Law Act provision of one or more of the following conditions need to apply:

  • your de facto relationship with your partner lasted for at least two years in total
  • you have a child with your de facto partner
  • you have made a substantial contribution to the property or finances of your partner
  • the relationship was registered under a State or Territory law
  • you lived for at least one-third of your relationship in Victoria or another state to where the laws apply (currently all Australian states and territories except Western Australia.)

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

Misconception #3: We need to live together for at least 6 months before we’re considered a de facto

No true. There is no timeline or minimum time. If you and your partner consider yourselves in a considered or committed relationship and other people recognise that, then you are likely to be in a de facto relationship.

Misconception #4: If the relationship ends I don’t need to pay spouse maintenance

There is De Facto Partner Maintenance, which is financial support paid by a party to a de facto relationship that has broken down to their former de facto partner in circumstances where they are unable to adequately support themselves.

Under the Family Law Act 1975, a person has a responsibility to financially assist their former de facto partner, if that person cannot meet their own reasonable expenses from their personal income or assets.

Where the need exists, both parties have an equal duty to support and maintain each other as far as they can. This obligation can continue even after separation and divorce. The extent of the support depends on what the other party can afford to pay.

Misconception #5: The Family Court can’t make orders regarding children of a de facto relationship

Children from a de facto relationship have the same rights as children from a marriage. The Family Court has the power to make orders it considers to be in the best interests of the children including with respect to parental responsibility and with whom a child lives and spends time with.

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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