De Facto Relationships

As of 2009, the Family Law Act applies to property disputes between couples who were in a de facto relationship, provided that certain threshold requirements are met. Such threshold indicators include the length the parties lived together and the nature of contributions made by each of them.

There are specific and separate provisions in the Family Law Act to address property settlement, spousal maintenance and pre-nuptial agreements / Binding Financial Agreements for de facto parties. 

However in broad terms, these provisions largely mirror those already in place for people who were married.

Important time limits apply with respect to commencing proceedings after the breakdown of a de facto relationship (normally within 2 years after the end of the relationship). While leave may be granted to make an application to the court after that time has passed, hardship must first be established.

What if the existence of a de facto relationship is disputed?

At times there may be disagreement about whether a de facto relationship existed, with one person arguing the Family Law Act should not apply. Where these disagreements occur,  the characteristics of the relationship are examined, including:

  • The length of time the relationship has been in existence;
  • The extent to which both people shared a common residence;
  • Whether a sexual relationship existed;
  • The ownership of property;
  • How that property was bought and used;
  • Whether the couple have children;
  • The public aspects of the relationship.

The questioning of or breakdown of a relationship, can be an emotional and confronting time for anyone to experience. The DDCS team is committed to comprehensively understanding your situation so that we can provide strategic and considered advice. We will advise you fully about your rights and entitlements after the end of a de facto relationship.


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