Am I in a De Facto Relationship?
This question is one that we often hear and the answer can depend upon who is asking the question. For instance, the requirements for Centrelink of what may be considered as a de facto relationship, may be much different than that required by the Family Courts. For the purpose of this blog, we have focussed upon de facto relationships and the family law system.
A de facto relationship is defined in the Family Law Act 1975 as two people, of either sex, living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. In essence, it must be a “marriage-like” relationship. Some factors which are looked to when determining whether a person may be in a de facto relationship, include:
- The length of the relationship – There is no rule of thumb as to how long a relationship needs to be, but obviously a longer relationship suggests that both parties have a commitment to a shared life together;
- Whether a sexual relationship exists – It is not necessary for a sexual relationship to exist, however, it is a factor to consider. It is also to be noted that just because one party of the relationship may have more than one sexual partner, this does not mean that the relationship is not a de facto relationship;
- Whether any joint bank accounts or jointly held property exist or whether parties are financially independent – It is not uncommon for couples to pool their finances and support one another and also purchase property, such as a home together, however, it may still be considered a de facto relationship, if both parties have their own separate accounts and separately owned property, with no jointly owned property;
- Whether your family, friends and community in general would consider you to be part of a couple – This is an important factor, as usually if a person is in a de facto relationship, it is clear to the community at large that they are part of such couple, for instance, are they invited to events and functions as a couple and how do they give gifts to family and friends;
- Whether they have Wills which mention the other person – In these circumstances, if a member of a couple is mentioned in the Will of the other person, this is usually suggestive of a de facto relationship together.
As you can see, there is no set formula or rule of thumb as to what makes a de facto relationship and all de facto relationships will be different. We have listed above some factors that are looked to in determining whether a couple are in a de facto relationship. Some de facto couples may be able to satisfy all the above issues, some may satisfy a selection of them and others none, but this does not mean that they are not part of a de facto relationship.
The very important question that then follows is, “If I am part of a de facto relationship, what does this mean for me in terms of my property settlement entitlements or risk of such claim being made against me?” This is an extremely important question and will be the topic of a future blog.
In the meantime, should you have any questions about de facto relationships or family law generally, please contact one of our Gold Coast or Logan Family Lawyers for 15 minutes of free telephone advice.