What Are My Legal Rights in a Breakdown of a De Facto Relationship?

In Australia, when a de facto couple splits, they generally have the same rights and responsibilities as a married couple when it comes to maintenance and the division of property. Just as married couples who cannot reach an amicable agreement on financial and parenting matters apply to the Court for a decision, de facto partners have legal options. Robert Wood and Associates is home to leading de facto relationship solicitors in Melbourne specialising in efficient and affordable property settlements in the event of separation. So how do you know if your relationship is considered ‘de facto’ and what are your rights if you break up?

How Does the Law Define a De Facto Relationship?

Under the Family Law Act, a person is in a de facto relationship with another person if:

  • the persons are not legally married to each other; and
  • the persons are not related by family; and
  • having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, they have a relationship as a couple who are living together on a “genuine domestic basis”.

What is Considered a “Genuine Domestic Basis”?

The answer generally depends on the individual circumstances of each couple, however some of the matters that the Family Court will consider are:

  • The length of the relationship and whether it is of a sexual nature
  • If financial dependence or independence exists or if you or your partner financially support one another
  • If you have joint assets
  • to what extent you have a mutual commitment to a shared life
  • The care and support of children

What Rights Do I Have in a De Facto Relationship?

Separating de facto couples have the same rights as married couples with regard to property settlement. The same applies for same sex de facto couples. These laws also provide the same rights for spousal maintenance and superannuation splits. For disputes about children and custody, the same family law applies to married couple and de facto relationships.

De Facto Relationship Property Rights

The Family Law Court can order a division of any property you and your de facto own (regardless of whether you own it together or separately) if it is satisfied that a de facto relationship exists in the first place, and if one of the following criteria exists:

  • The de facto relationship lasted at least two years
  • There is a child of the de facto relationship
  • One party made substantial financial or non-financial contributions and serious injustice would result if the order to split property was not made
  • The relationship is registered in a state or territory with laws for the registration of relationships

What Does ‘Property of The Relationship’ Include?

Property includes all assets and debts held in joint or separate names and may include such things that were acquired before or even after the relationship ends, including:

  • The family home
  • Cars, boats and other vehicles
  • Household and personal items, such as furniture, white goods and jewellery
  • Business and property investments
  • Superannuation
  • Home loan debt
  • Money owing on credit cards or personal loans

Will I Need to Go to Court If We Separate?

Any arrangements regarding property division can be formalised between the couple without any court involvement. However, if you can’t reach an amicable agreement, then a court will consider the division of property, and all property will be considered regardless of when it was obtained and who obtained it.

Be Aware of the Time Limitation Period

According to Australian law, there is a time limit of two years for you to make a property claim against your de facto partner. This is from the date that your relationship ended.

If you’re considering leaving a de facto relationship, it’s important to seek legal advice quickly and work out what your rights are. At Robert Wood and Associates, we are the experienced de facto relationship solicitors Melbourne couples trust. We can provide professional advice tailored to your unique circumstances. Get in touch with us today on (03) 9762 3877 or send us an enquiry online to find out more.

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