What are the Legal Consequences of a Breakdown in a De Facto Relationship?

Many people choose not to get married as they may not want the formality of the relationship or the legal implications that can be characterised in the event that there is a breakdown of the relationship. However, what most people do not realise is that the differences between the legal implications of the breakdown of a de facto relationship and that of a breakdown of marriage are quite inconsequential.

Furthermore, those who reside together in a relationship for a number of years may not be aware that they are meeting the criteria of what a de facto couple is as outlined in the Family Law Act 1975 (“the Act’’).

For the purposes of Family law, the definition of a de facto relationship is contained under s4AA of the Act. It outlines the meaning of a de facto relationship as where:

  •   There is no legal marriage;
  •   There is no relation of family between the two parties; and
  •   All the circumstances of the relationship, including if the couple is living together on a genuine domestic basis, lead one to believe there is a valid relationship. Section 4AA also outlines that a de facto relationship can exist:
  •   Between 2 persons of different sexes and between 2 persons of the same sex; and
  •   Where one of the parties is legally married to someone else or in another de facto relationship,

In the instance that a de facto relationship breaks down, the parties are able to seek maintenance, declarations of property interests and alterations of property interests provided that the length of the relationship has been at least 2 years as outlined in s90SB of the Act.

Those who are in a de facto relationship are able to make such property claims against a former partner within 2 years of the separation of the couple. Further, those parties of a de facto relationship, which has broken down, are able to apply to the court to have issues related to the care and welfare of the children of the couple dealt with. It has become evident that the courts determine both orders, for the care and welfare of children as well as the separation of property, in an extremely similar manner to that of married couples.

Therefore, if you think you might be in a de facto relationship or have a claim for property orders from a previous relationship, contact the friendly and professional staff here at LBC Lawyers and let us assist you with your matter.

Aleksandar Cankulovski
LBC Lawyers