De Facto Relationships


Borchard and Moore had assisted numerous separated couples in making arrangements for the care and support of their children and in dividing their property and settling their debts. Proper arrangements for the care and support of the children and property settlement after separation apply not only for married couples but also for de facto couples. 


What is a de facto relationship?

A couple is in a de facto relationship when they are unrelated by family, unmarried to each other, and have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.


What are the factors considered in determining the existence of a de facto relationship?


  • length of relationship and existence of sexual relationship

  • nature and extent of cohabitation

  • degree of financial dependence or interdependence and the existence of joint management of money

  • joint ownership, use and acquisition of property

  • degree of mutual commitment to each other

  • whether the relationship is registered under a State law

  • care and support of children

  • reputation of your relationship


Why do I have to know if I am in a de facto relationship?


Couples in a de facto relationship have the same responsibilities to each other just like married couples. When de facto couples separate, issues involving the children and property will be treated by law in the same manner as for married couples.


Am I entitled to property adjustment and/or maintenance orders?


Yes, you may be entitled to property adjustment and/or maintenance orders if any of the following exists:


  • the de facto relationship lasted for at least two years where:

    • ​they have a child together

    • either or both parties made substantial contributions and it would be seriously unjust for that party if the Family Law Act did not apply, or

  • the relationship is registered


What are the effects of registration of a de facto relationship?


Registration of a de facto relationship may give rise to certain rights and obligations that are similar to those in marriage. Once registered, the certificate can be used as proof of the existence and duration of the relationship. 

When can I apply to the court for a property settlement or maintenance?


You can do so within two years after your relationship has ended. When the two years period had lapsed, your application can be made only with the consent of the parties or with the permission from the court.


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