De Facto Relationships

If you and your partner are not married, you may be in a de facto relationship. A de facto relationship arises when two people, who are not legally married to one another, and who are not related, have a relationship as a couple living together in a marriage-like way.

De facto couples can include two people of opposite gender or two people of the same gender. In Australia, most long-term same-sex relationships will fall into the classification of a de facto relationship.

Either party to a de facto relationship can be married to other people.

A de facto relationship does not happen straight away if you commence living with your partner on a domestic basis. Generally, a de facto relationship will arise when one or more of the following things happen:

  • You and your partner have lived together for 2 years; or
  • You and your partner have a baby; or
  • You and you partner make significant and/or ongoing financial and/or non-financial contributions to each other’s lives and property.

Unlike a marriage, it is not always easy to tell whether you are in a de facto relationship with someone and when it started. There may be no specific event that makes your relationship a de facto one and you do not have to sign any document for your relationship with your partner to qualify as a de facto relationship. Rather, the circumstances and marriage like nature of your relationship are what makes it legally a de facto relationship. If you and your partner separate, and there is a financial dispute, it will be very important to determine whether you were in a de facto relationship, as the law treats de facto couples the same as married couples where property is concerned.

If you were not a de facto couple, then any financial dispute will be determined differently.

If you have any doubt about whether you were in a de facto relationship, and you have a financial dispute with your former partner, you may need to see a lawyer to help you work out whether your relationship was a de facto relationship.

De Facto couples can register their relationships in some States of Australia. Presently, this is only available in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory. In 2007 the Federal Government announced that it would like to see a national register, where all de facto couples could register their relationships across Australia. This service has not yet been made available.


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