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Family Law

Family Law in Canberra – Is your relationship actually a ‘relationship’ in the eyes of the Law?

By January 22, 2015No Comments

By Cristina Huesch

A new case* reflects that although you may think you are in a de facto relationship, legally you may not be considered to be de factos, and therefore you may not have any entitlement to seek a property adjustment from your Ex.  Note that sometimes one person believes they are in a relationship, but the other person has completely a different idea.

So what are the typical requirements before you are ‘de factos’?

  1. You are in a relationship for at least 2 years (there are exceptions if you have a baby and/or if you make substantial contributions to the other person’s property in under 2 years)
  2. The person who wants to prove that there is a relationship (Applicant) has that burden of proof. The other person (the Respondent) does not have to prove that there is no relationship. Of course, they will usually file evidence in response.
  3. To be a de facto, you can’t be legally married or related by family;
  4. You are a couple ‘living together on a genuine domestic basis’.  This means looking at:

-length of relationship;

– do you live together? Sometimes you don’t have to share a house to be considered de factos, at other times people move around and have on/off arrangements. Each case is different.

– are you in a sexual relationship? It may be on-off. You may simply be ‘friends with benefits’ as is the term. Are you seeing other people? Each relationship is different.

– What kind of financial arrangements are in place between you? How much intermingling of finances is there? Do you have joint bank accounts? Have you told Centrelink you are ‘single’? What have you told other agencies including the Department of Immigration about your next of kin on passenger cards entering and leaving Australia?

– What are your arrangements for buying, using and maintaining property? Is there any joint property or joint debt?

– to what degree is there a mutual commitment to a shared life? Have you signed Wills giving ‘my partner X’ any of your assets? Do you give the other person access to your passwords for email accounts, banking and/or mobile phones?

– have you registered your relationship, such as a Civil Partnership under any State or Territory law?

– are you caring for and supporting children together?

– how do friends, family and workplaces see your relationship? Do you send Christmas cards ‘from X and me’? Are you invited to family weddings as a couple?

*Regan & Walsh [2014] FCCA 2535

If you have any questions about your de facto relationship status and/or your entitlements to seek a property settlement or avoid paying a property settlement to an Ex, book in to see one of our friendly lawyers for advice.


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