A de facto relationship is a relationship in which the parties are not legally married to one another nor related by family and maintain a genuine relationship while living together for at least six months.

Both same-sex and opposite sex relationships can be de facto.  A person can have multiple de facto relationships at the same time, or even be legally married while holding a simultaneous de facto relationship.

Ultimately, there is no one definition of a de facto relationship but rather a series of factors that can contribute to whether a court would consider the couple a de facto couple. Some of these factors include but are not limited to, jointly owned assets, an intimate relationship, children of the relationship and any considerable financial or non-financial contributions to the relationship.

What is the difference between a de facto relationship and a marriage?

Unlike a marriage, there is no formal process required to dissolve the relationship. Where the relationship has been registered with the New South Wales Relationship Registry the only formal process would be the lodgement of a request to revoke the registration of the relationship via any service centre or by mail.

For all other effects and purposes a de facto relationship is treated the same way a marriage would be.

How does that affect my separation from my de facto partner?

There are many rights, similar to that of married couples, that arise at the separation of the relationship. Including, but not limited to:

  • You or your partner may be entitled to claim a share of the asset pool including superannuation;
  • You or your partner have a 2 year window after separation to claim a share of assets;
  • You or your partner may be entitled to spousal maintenance;
  • Much like marital separation, property settlements should be conducted by a solicitor who will assess the asset pool for its valuation, liabilities and any superannuation held by both parties. This could include property owned individually and jointly; and
  • All financial and non-financial contributions of the parties will be considered in any division of assets.

In order to protect any assets, you may own individually from any de facto property settlements, the couple can enter into a Property Settlement Agreement or a Binding Financial Agreement to formally set out an agreed asset division should the couple separate.

If you are separating from your de facto relationship or would like to prepare a Binding Financial Agreement or Property Settlement Agreement, you can contact our specialised Family Law Team for advice on (02) 9525 8688 or email info@wmdlaw.com.au.  We also invite you to download our free Divorce and Separation eGuide.