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Who do the laws concerning de facto relationships apply to?

The Court takes a case-by-case approach to de facto relationships, meaning there is no clear cut manner to determine a de facto relationship ‘legally ‘exists. This can be confusing, as people are often left wondering whether or not their relationship constitutes a de facto relationship under the Family Law Act. The Court will look at the individual circumstances of the relationship to determine if a de facto relationship exists. These circumstances can include:.

  • The length of the relationship
  • Living arrangements
  • Sexual relationships
  • Representation of the relationship to the public
  • If there are children, the nature of care for them
  • If the relationship was registered under state or territory law
  • Arrangements of finances
  • Any property owned together

When looking at de facto relationships, the Court does not treat same sex or opposite sex relationships differently. It is interesting to note that the law may also consider that a de facto relationship exists even if one party to the relationship is legally married to someone else at the time.

Making applications for a de facto property settlement

Upon establishing your relationship is considered de facto, you are able to apply for a de facto property settlement in accordance with the Family Law Act, if one or more of the following apply:

  • The relationship was registered under a State or Territory law
  • You have offered substantial contributions towards the property and finances of your partner
  • You have a child with your partner
  • Your relationship lasted for at least two years in total
  • You have lived for a minimum of one-third of the relationship within NSW or a state where the laws apply (excluding Western Australia)
How will the Court determine the division of property?

The Court determines the division of property in a de facto property settlement just as they would in a marriage breakdown settlement. Namely, the Court will consider:

  • What either party owned prior to the relationship.
  • Future needs of both parties including their care for any children of the relationship, each party’s health, earning capacity and other financial means;
  • Contributions made by both parties during the relationship. These could be:
    • Direct financial contributions by way of income and payments
    • Indirect financial contributions such as an inheritance
    • Non-financial contributions such as care of the  children and home

Our specialist family law team can assist and advise in your property settlement. Our Accredited Family Law Specialists are able to look at the best outcome for you and give you advice as to your legal rights and entitlements.

Speak to one of them today!

For advice about negotiating a Property Settlement Agreement contact us on 1800 300 170 or email us at


Family law situations can be complex and sometimes they can involve serious issues.  Information outlined is proposed to provide general guidance only. Due to the seriousness of legal matters as well as the uniqueness of your individual situation, professional advice should be sought. For advice, please contact one of our Family Lawyers.