It is becoming increasingly more common for couples to maintain long term relationships without marrying or even considering marriage, while still entering into traditionally marital transactions such as purchasing property or becoming parents together. As with married couples, sometimes de facto relationships dissolve, so what do you need to consider if the relationship breaks down and what rights do you have to protect your assets and family?
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 existence of 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.
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 (eg. direct ancestors, direct descendants, siblings or half siblings);
- at least one partner lives in Queensland;
- if a party has ever been married evidence is given that the party is no longer married (eg. 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 couples 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