What are my property rights after the breakdown of a de facto relationship?

If you are in a de facto relationship in Australia, you generally have the same rights as a married couple when it comes to the division of property.

The same laws apply for same sex de facto couples. It is important to understand though that simply living with someone and being in a sexual relationship with them, does not of itself mean you are in a de-facto relationship.

What is a De facto Relationship?

As relationships are complex and the legal ramifications are immense there is no singular meaning of a de facto relationship. Each case is examined individually and the specific circumstances of the relationship are taken into consideration.

Interestingly, you can be considered to be in more than one de facto relationship at a time. The Family Law Act 1975 specifically acknowledges that a person can be in a de facto relationship regardless if they are in another de facto relationship. Meaning that a de facto relationship does not need to be mutually exclusive.

Because the definition of de facto depends on the particular circumstances of the couple, the law has formulated a set of factors to determine whether a couple are (or were) de facto.

The factors that are considered in a such a family law matter involving a defacto relationship include:

  • Whether the couple are married;
  • Whether they are related by family;
  • How long the couple have been together in their relationship;
  • Whether the relationship was sexual in nature;
  • If there is any financial dependency;
  • The degree of a mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • Whether the relationship is registered in an Australian state or territory;
  • If there is any shared property ownership and use;
  • If there are any children in the relationship and their care;
  • If the relationship was public knowledge.

Defacto Relationships and Property

If there is a financial dispute about property in a defacto relationship, you must satisfy the Court of the following:

  • you were in a genuine de facto relationship with your former partner and that relationship has broken down
  • you must also meet one of the following:
  1. Your relationship lasted for at least two years; or
  2. There is a child or children of the relationship; or
  3. You have made substantial financial or non-financial contributions to the other person’s property;
  4. A serious injustice would be caused to you as a homemaker or parent if property was not divided; or
  5. The de facto relationship was registered in a state or territory.

As with all areas of Family Law, each matter is unique to those involved and everyone’s circumstances will be different. If you have further questions about this subject, please contact our family lawyers at Dawson & Gardener on 02 4954 8666