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De Facto Relationships

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DE FACTO RELATIONSHIPS
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De Facto Relationships

A de facto relationship can be difficult to identify

De facto relationships generally refer to couples who are not married but are in a ‘marriage-like’ relationship. According to the law, de facto couples have available to them the same rights as married couples except in relation to superannuation, which cannot be split in Western Australia.

The following factors are indicators of whether or not a de facto relationship exists between two persons:

  • The duration of the relationship;
  • The nature and extent of the common residence;
  • Whether a sexual relationship exists;
  • The degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangement for financial support;
  • The ownership, use and acquisition of property;
  • The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • The care and support of children; and
  • The reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

The Family Court treats children of de facto relationships no differently from children of married couples with respect to making orders as to where they live, what time they spend with each parent, child support and other specific arrangements.

If you are unsure whether the Family Court would consider your relationship as de facto, please contact us so we can assist.

What are my rights in a de facto relationship?

De facto couples in Western Australia have had similar rights and responsibilities as married couples. So in most cases (but not all), the same rules apply and any disputes over your children and property will be treated by law in the same way as a separation or divorce for a married couple.

In Western Australia, de facto spouses can apply for property settlement and spousal maintenance under the Family Court Act 1997 (WA), in the following circumstances:

  • You have lived together for at least two years, or
  • You have a child together under 18 and not getting a property settlement would result in serious injustice, or 
  • one party made a substantial contribution and failure to make the order would result in serious injustice to the partner.

The law says the Family Court of Western Australia can make property settlement orders for de facto couples if:

  • at least one third of the relationship must have taken place in WA; or
  • substantial contributions made in this state; and
  • at least one de facto spouse must be living in WA on the day the application is made.

I have separated from my partner, when can I apply for property settlement?

When a de facto relationship ends, there is a limit of 2 years within which you can apply for a property settlement or maintenance under the Family Court Act. 

After this two year period, settlement can only be made with permission from the Court.

De Facto relationships can be as legally complex as a marriage and therefore require a trained lawyer help you understand how the Family Court treats matters such as the breakdown of a relationship, joint assets, property and any children you or your partner have.

Like many areas of family law, the laws around de-facto couples can be easily misinterpreted. This is why you should seek help as early as possible to ensure the best long-term outcome for your future and if possible, the most amicable separation from your partner.

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