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Family Law

What constitutes a de facto relationship in family law?

By January 16, 2017No Comments

By Gianna Huesch

A recent case before the courts examined whether or not a same-sex couple were in a de facto relationship to determine whether one partner had any rights to make a claim on the other’s assets.

The couple had been together for a number of years before the relationship soured, after which one partner made tentative approaches to the other for a property settlement. However, the other partner denied there had ever been a de facto relationship, and so the case proceeded through the court system.

Though the men presented themselves as boyfriends to others, one partner claimed he regarded the relationship as merely ‘friends with benefits’ rather than long term life partners.  The relationship was ‘open’ in that other sexual partners were permitted with consent.

They maintained separate homes, though one partner would stay at the other’s house around once a week. They kept their finances largely separate though each had made the other a beneficiary in their will.

Despite never having lived together and their relationship not being monogamous, the court found the relationship had enough features of a genuine domestic arrangement to qualify as de facto. The couple had “communicated with each other from morning to night” through a massive volume of texts and emails, referring to each other as “hubby, “partner” or “my better half”, and had made statements like “you are the only one for me” and “you’ve got me for life”.

In fact contrary to popular belief, couples do not need to live together to be regarded as legal domestic partners. Instead, courts take a range of factors into account in determining whether a relationship is a genuine domestic one. These include: the length of the relationship, whether there was a common residence, whether there was a sexual relationship, the degree of financial independence and any arrangements for financial support, ownership and use of the property, the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life, care and support of any children, reputation and and public aspects of the relationship, and whether the relationship has been registered in a State or Territory with laws for the registration of relationships.

In this case, courts found enough evidence to conclude the relationship was a bona fide de facto one for the purposes of the Family Law Act,  paving the way for a property settlement.


Read more about de facto relationships in family law:

Are you in a de facto relationship and need advice about your rights or legal representation? Please contact Cristina Huesch or one of our other experienced solicitors here at Alliance Family Law on (02) 6223 2400 today.


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