Laws relating to De Facto Relationship couples were changed on 1 March 2009 so that de facto relationship couples separating after 1 March 2009 are now dealt with under Commonwealth Legislation (the Family Law Act) and matters are now being heard by the Federal Courts (the Family Court of Australia and the Federal Magistrates Court of Australia).
This good news for couples in De Facto Relationships is that their matters will now be dealt with in a similar manner to those of married couples.
What is a De Facto Relationship?
The Court will review a number of criteria to determine whether a de facto relationship exists including:
- The duration of the relationship
- Whether a sexual relationship exists
- The reputation and public assets of the relationship, for example, if the parties go out together as a couple etc.
How long do I have to live with someone before the De Facto laws apply?
The Court can only make Orders in relation to property proceedings in respect to a de facto couple where:-
- The period or the total of the periods of the de facto relationship is at least two (2) years. Even if you have been living with someone and there have been periods of separation, so long as the total period adds up to two (2) years then the laws will apply; OR
- There is a child of the de facto relationship; OR
- The party substantially contributed to any property and a failure to make an order would cause a serious injustice – therefore, if a party has made a substantial financial contribution or otherwise to some of the property of the other party then the laws may apply.
What can the Court do in regards to the assets of the de facto relationship couple?
After the breakdown of a de facto relationship, the court may make such order as it considers appropriate.
This is a wide term but it includes:
- Altering the party’s interest in property e.g. if property is registered only in one party’s name the court can make an order that the property be transferred to the other or be sold etc to ensure the other party receives their share in that property;
- Spousal Maintenance;
- Splitting of Superannuation interest.
An application can only be brought in a de facto matter with respect to issues involving property if the application is made within two (2) years after the end of the de facto relationship. After this time, you must seek the Court’s consent to bring the application. That consent may be given if the court is satisfied hardship will be caused to the party.