A de facto relationship is a relationship between two people living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis (as defined by the Family Law Act 1975). A de facto relationship can exist between two members of the same or opposite sex. A de facto relationship in Australia has the same weight in law as a legal marriage in many respects.
How does being in a de facto relationship affect my legal rights?
For the purposes of Australian law, a “spouse” usually includes a person with whom you are a in a de facto relationship. This means that you have the same rights and responsibilities in relation to the relationship that you would if you were married.
For example, if the relationship ends, your obligations to your ex-partner will be the same as if it was the end of a marriage in terms of property sharing and childcare. Being in a de facto relationship also affects your obligations and entitlement to many types of social welfare, benefits, and taxation, so make sure you understand your legal status.
Why would I choose a de facto relationship?
For some, it is a matter of not wanting to get married or go through any other officially recognised ceremony. For others, they might not choose to be in a de facto relationship, but it is something that happens naturally when the relationship progresses to the point of cohabitation. In Australia, same sex couples cannot legally marry, so to solidify their relationship in law they must enter into a de facto relationship.
How do I end my relationship?
De facto relationships can be ended the same way as other relationships, but with greater financial consequences. If you want de facto financial orders, you must apply for them within two years of the breakdown of your relationship. After this time you need the Court’s permission to apply.
As outlined above, ending a de facto relationship has the same consequences as ending a marriage, so make sure you consider your options and seek legal advice from a family lawyer.