De Facto Relationships and Law in Queensland

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It is becoming increasingly common for couples to maintain long term relationships without marrying or even considering marriage. De facto couples still however, enter into traditional marital transactions such as purchasing property or becoming parents together.

As with married couples, sometimes de facto relationships come to an end. So, what do you need to consider if your de facto relationship breaks down? Do you know your rights when it comes to protecting your assets and family? There are some de facto ‘laws’ that you should be aware of which differ from those in marriages. If your de facto relationship is ending, make sure you know where you stand legally. Our team of expert lawyers in Cairns can help.

What is considered a De Facto Relationship?

As set out by the Family Law Act 1975, when two adults of any sex, live together on a genuine domestic basis, they are in a de facto relationship.

To determine if a couple is in fact in a de facto relationship, a Court may consider factors such as:

  • the length of time the couple has been together (including any periods of separation)
  • whether or not there was a sexual relationship
  • whether or not the couple were residing together
  • the financial dependency of the parties; and
  • how the relationship was perceived by family and friends of the couple.

The default length of time for a relationship to be recognised as de facto is two years in Queensland. However, you should be aware that if you have registered your relationship or you have a child together, your relationship will automatically be considered as de facto.

This is important, because once you are in a de facto relationship, both you and your de facto partner will have rights and entitlements to one another’s property and assets.

Does my de facto relationship need to be registered?

If you wish to register your relationship as a civil partnership, you may do so in Queensland provided:

  • both parties are over the age of 18
  • neither party is married or already in a civil partnership
  • the parties are not in a prohibited relationship (e.g. direct ancestors, direct descendants, siblings or half siblings)
  • at least one partner lives in Queensland
  • if a party has ever been married, evidence is required to show the party is no longer married (e.g. Divorce Order or Death Certificate)
  • both parties have read about the legal effect of a civil partnership.

Legally ending a de facto Relationship

One of the main differences between married and de facto couples are the formalities surrounding the end of the relationship. If your de facto relationship does come to an end, there is no similar process to applying for a divorce for married couples.

The exception to this would be where property and parenting matters are concerned.  If you both agree to divide the assets amicably, there is no requirement to attend Court and the process can be finalised by your solicitors.  However, if the relationship is acrimonious you may need to apply to the Court for financial orders. This must be done within two years of the relationship ending.

For the Court to be able to make orders, the couple will need to satisfy the Court of the following:

  • a genuine de facto relationship existed and has broken down;
  • you have a geographical connection to a participating jurisdiction;
  • your relationship broke down after 1 March 2009; and
  • you meet one of the following criteria:
    • the period of the de facto relationship was at least 2 years
    • there is a child of the de facto relationship
    • the relationship is ow was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory
    • significant contributions were made by one party and the failure to issue an order would result in a serious injustice

If you are seeking expert advice on family law matters and the family court procedure, please contact us on 07 4052 0790.

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