Am I in a “De Facto” Relationship?

The modern household is quite different from what it was a generation ago. Increasingly, we’re seeing more households that are comprised out of unmarried couples, or households comprised out of same sex couples.

Fortunately, the legal definition of a spousal relationship has also evolved, and de facto couples are entitled to similar rights as a married couple under the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth), with respect to property settlements and parenting arrangements.

That being said, when it comes to marriage, showing that the couple were married is usually very easy – you provide a marriage certificate to whoever’s asking. It can be trickier when it comes to de facto relationships.

Fortunately there is a definition for what a de facto relationship is under the Family Law Act 1975 (Commonwealth) – and this definition says that this will depend on a number of things, such as:

  • How long did the relationship last for?
  • Live together? How often?
  • How were assets acquired, and who contributed to them?
  • Were there any children?
  • How did others perceive the couple? 

Generally however the rule of thumb is that if a couple lives together for about two years, that might be considered a de facto relationship.

Because the rights of a de facto are the same as the rights of a married couple, figuring this out is important. It is important to understand the implications of moving in together – it can be a pretty big deal. If you’re going to do that soon, it’s probably a good idea to talk about things with your partner, and make sure that everyone is on the same page.