Breakups are never easy. They cause a lot of stress, anxiety and heartache and are often made worse when shared assets are involved. Pets, money, cars and property are just a few of the things that can add to the stress of a relationship breakdown. If you’re in a de facto relationship, it’s important to know your rights during a breakup as they can differ to those of a married couple.
Here, we’re going to outline the definition of a de facto relationship, your legal rights during a relationship breakdown and where you can seek legal counsel if necessary.
This article should not be taken as legal advice. If you need to seek legal consult, please ensure you speak with a lawyer. Richard Murray Law are Australian family law specialists who can offer tailored legal advice.
What is the definition of a de facto relationship?
Under the Australian Family Law Act 1975, a de facto relationship is defined as “a relationship between two people (who are not legally married or related by family) who, having regard to all of the circumstances of their relationship, lived together on a genuine domestic basis”. This definition is the same across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory.
Same sex and opposite sex couples are both recognised in the de facto relationship laws in Australia. Couples who are married or related by family are not considered to be in de facto relationships, but someone who is legally married can still be considered to be in a de facto relationship with another person whom they are not married to.
How do you qualify for a de facto relationship?
Living in the same house as someone and being in a sexual relationship does not automatically mean you are in a de facto relationship.
To be considered de facto, a couple must have lived together for two years without separation. However, if children or substantial contributions to shared property are involved, exceptions can be made.
What happens in the event of a breakup?
For the most part, de facto relationships have a track record of ending amicably. However, that’s not to say there won’t be disputes – particularly when children and property are involved.
If you’re figuring out how to divide property, you have three options.
1. Come to an agreement without court involvement
2. Apply for consent orders through the court and have an agreement formalised
3. Apply for court orders
Courts are able to make orders for the division of shared property and can also order splits of superannuation or for one party to pay another spousal maintenance. Your shared asset pool includes anything acquired before, during or after separation regardless of whether it is individually or jointly owned. When determining property settlements, the courts take a range of factors into account including financial and non-financial contributions made by each person along with their future needs.
Court orders must be completed within two years post-split from your partner otherwise you need to seek the courts approval to make an application.
In Western Australia, people in de facto relationships need to apply to the Family Court of Western Australia to resolve issues relating to children or property. People in other Australian states can apply to either the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court. This means your family matters will be dealt with in the same manner as married couples who are seeking a divorce.
Should you seek legal advice?
If property or children are involved, it may be wise to seek legal advice before proceeding further. When choosing a lawyer, it’s important to consider the area in which they specialise and how they can best address your needs.
Richardson Murray are a boutique law firm who specialise in family law, founded by Stephanie Murray and Anton Richardson. Stephanie realised the demand for a law firm practising exclusively in family law and sought to create a firm which understood the needs of people going through a separation and dealing with the added stresses the pandemic has caused. As a result, Richardson Murray put client care at the forefront of everything they do, making them a popular choice for people seeking legal advice during a relationship breakdown.
You can book a free consultation with them here if you would like more information or to seek legal advice from a professional.