The proportion of adults in de facto relationships has seen a steady increase in recent years. A de facto relationship is defined in the Family Law Act 1975 as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis, many couples may not even realise their relationship has been given a label and how that label may impact them if their relationship breaks down. Here we take a look at 5 things you should know about de facto relationships.
A de facto relationship doesn’t need to be formalised
A de facto relationship doesn’t require you to say ‘I do’. In fact you could be in a de facto relationship and not even know it. De facto status is given to those in a relationship as a couple (who are not legally married or related), living together on a genuine domestic basis usually for a period of at least two years.
When determining if a de facto relationship exists other considerations are given to: the duration of the relationship; nature and extent of common residence; whether a sexual relationship exists; financial dependence or interdependence; property ownership; degree of mutual commitment to a shared life; care and support of children if applicable; and public aspects of the relationship.
Couples living together may not be overly concerned with their relationship status; however a de facto label becomes important in the event of a relationship breakdown. While it’s not necessary to formalise a de facto relationship in order for it to exist, couples may choose to register their relationship in some states, however, very few people take this step.
De facto relationships include both heterosexual and same-sex couples
De facto relationship status doesn’t just apply to heterosexual couples. Under section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 a de facto relationship can exist between two people of the same or opposite sex.
Legal rights are similar to marriage
You may not have walked down the aisle, but if you’ve been living together in a de facto relationship, if your relationship breaks down the law will treat your relationship in a similar way to as if you were married. Where a de facto relationship exists and breaks down it will be dealt with in the same way as a marriage breakdown when considering the division of property, assets, superannuation and spousal maintenance. For the purposes of parenting arrangements, it does not make any difference if the parents were married or in a de facto relationship.
A de facto relationship status may be relevant for some visa applications
It’s a common misconception that marriage is the only relationship that matters when applying for an Australian visa, however some visa applications will take a de facto relationship into consideration. Permanent visas, business skills visas, student, partner and general skilled migration visas will all take into account a de facto relationship that has existed for at least 12 months.
You can be in a de facto relationship with more than one person
While a de facto relationship is defined as being between two people, a person can be in de facto relationships with more than one person at one time. A de facto relationship can also exist even if one person is married to someone else.
De facto relationships fall into the sometimes complex area of family law. At Taylor & Scott Lawyers we specialise in helping people navigate and resolve family law issues. If you’ve got questions about your de facto relationship, give us a call on 1800 600 664, or make an appointment using our online contact form.
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