A de facto relationship exists when an adult couple, who are of the same or opposite sex, live together on a genuine domestic basis. A relationship is not a de facto relationship if the couple are legally married or related by family.
Many individuals in a de facto relationship are not aware of their legal rights. For example, since the laws were amended in 2009, individuals in a de facto relationship can now pursue property and financial settlements in the same way that married couples that separate or divorce can (in the Family Court of Australia). However, the Court can only make orders in relation to de facto couples if it is satisfied that one of the following exist:
- The couple lived together on a genuine domestic basis for a period (or cumulative period) of at least two (2) years; or
- There is a child of the de facto relationship; or
- One of the parties made significant financial or non-financial contributions to the couple’s property or as a homemaker or parent, and a serious injustice to that party would result if an order was not made; or
- The relationship has been registered in the relevant State of Territory.
Importantly, any application for property and financial orders must be lodged within two (2) years of the breakdown of the relationship.