De Facto Relationship Breakdowns

A domestic or de-facto relationship is considered under the Act to be a relationship between two people who have been cohabitating in a genuine domestic arrangement. It does not distinguish between gender and / or age, and considers issues of dependency.

In 2009, amendments were made to the Family Law Act 1975 that allowed people in a domestic or de-facto relationship to have any relationship breakdown or dispute governed and determined by the Family Law Act and the Family Law Courts.

These amendments essentially duplicated the remedies and protections available to separating or separated married parties, and made those remedies and protections available to those in separating or separated de facto couples. The amendment was a significant step towards recognising non-marriage relationships, especially considering the same avenues available for deciding children's issues have always been open to separated de facto couples.

One issue that arises intermittently is whether a domestic or de-facto relationship existed. To determine if a relationship is domestic or de-facto, there are a number of issues to be considered and determined, such as:

  • How long has the relationship existed?
  • Do the parties share a common residence, and if so, to what degree?
  • Was it an intimate and/or sexual relationship?
  • Did either party rely on the other financially, and to what degree?
  • Was either party financially dependant on the other party, and to what degree?
  • What are the assets owned by the parties to the relationship?
  • How and when were the assets purchased and utilised?
  • Are there any children or the relationship, and if so, how many?
  • Did the parties appear or function as a couple in everyday life?

If a de facto relationship has broken down, the parties have 2 years to commence proceedings in respect of property matters. If applying outside the 2 years, you can apply for leave of the Court due to hardship, but it must be evidenced.

For more information on de facto relationships, please contact our office.