De facto relationships

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De facto relationships

A de facto relationship is when two people are not married but live together, or have lived together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. A family law court can make decisions if there is no agreement.

Disputes concerning children

The family law courts can decide disputes about children from a de facto relationship, including disputes about parenting arrangements and child contact.

The court will deal with issues relating to children from de facto relationships in the same way as children of married couples.

Property settlement and partner maintenance

The court may make orders about the division of property and financial support for de facto partners. To make an order for property and maintenance issues, the court must be satisfied that:

  • the couple were in a de facto relationship for at least two years or a child is born of their de facto relationship
  • the couple have lived at least a third of their de facto relationship together in Australia (other than Western Australia)
  • the couple separated after 1 March 2009.

In deciding whether you were in a de facto relationship, the court will consider:

  • how long the relationship lasted
  • how you lived together and how long for
  • if you were in a sexual relationship
  • if you depended financially on each other, and any arrangements for financial support between you
  • how any property was owned and used and how you came to own it
  • if you had a commitment to a shared life together
  • how you cared for and supported any children you have
  • how other people saw your relationship.

If you cannot prove that a de facto relationship existed, you may have other legal rights to money or property under Victorian law or under trusts law. Get legal advice.

If you separated before 1 March 2009, different laws apply so it is best to get legal advice. However, if both of you agree, you can choose to have your dispute dealt with in the family law courts. You must get independent legal advice first.

Registered relationships

A couple in a de facto relationship can register their relationship with the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.

If you are in a registered relationship, you do not have to provide evidence that you are in a domestic relationship to apply for a financial order. This makes it easier for couples to access their legal rights if their relationship breaks down.

Financial agreements

If you have a relationship or financial agreement (sometimes called a binding financial agreement) that has been prepared by your lawyer, you can sort out property and maintenance according to the agreement. If not, try to reach agreement yourselves.

If you reach agreement, you may wish to make it binding by entering into a binding financial agreement or filing consent orders with the court. See Agreement about dividing property.

If you need help, consider going to family dispute resolution. If you still cannot reach agreement, you may be able to go to court.

Time limits

You must apply for a court order about property settlement and partner maintenance within two years of separating from your partner. The court may allow more time in special circumstances. Get legal advice.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with separation, divorce and marriage annulment.

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