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De facto law

The incidence of people involved in de facto relationships (or as they are legally termed, "domestic relationships") is increasing in Australia. The definition of a de facto relationship includes both same-sex and heterosexual couples. 

Our team advises and represents de facto couples in relation to all aspects of de facto law, including: 

Our lawyers have many years experience in relation to de facto law and can advise you on the applicable jurisdiction and law, as well as representing you in the Family Court, if necessary.



De facto law and binding financial agreements

De facto couples can enter into binding financial agreements that determine in advance the terms of any property settlement, should the relationship break down. The agreements are legally binding and, except in limited circumstances, will govern how property and financial assets are settled between a separating couple. 

Read more about binding financial agreements.


De facto law and property disputes 

Previously, each State and Territory adopted a different approach to the division of property for de facto couples. This recently changed when the Family Law Act was amended to extend its coverage to most Australian de facto couples. 

Now, provided a de facto couple separated on or after March 2009, the division of their property is treated in exactly the same way as for married couples. However, there are some basic criteria that must also be established, including that:

  • the couple must have been living together in a de facto relationship for at least two years; or
  • the couple has a child together; or
  • one party has made substantial contributions to the relationship. Contributions can be financial or non-financial, such as contributions to the welfare of the family (for example, as a homemaker or a parent); or
  • the relationship is or was registered under a relevant State law (for example, if the relationship was registered with the Department of Births Deaths and Marriages in the Victorian Relationships Register); or
  • the couple were ordinarily living in one of the Australian states that are now covered by the Family Law Act (as opposed to the individual state legislation).

Property settlement disputes for de facto couples who separated prior to March 2009 will be determined by the relevant State legislation, depending on where the couple resided. It is important to be aware that there can be significant differences in terms of approach and entitlement in each state. 

Read more about property settlements.


De facto law and parenting disputes

Parenting disputes in relation to the children of same-sex and heterosexual de facto couples will continue to be dealt with by the Family Court. This is regardless of whether the couple separated before or after March 2009. 

Read more about children's matters.


De facto law and spousal maintenance

In addition to property settlements, de facto couples can apply for spousal maintenance following their separation. This includes – in certain circumstances – the ability to get an urgent maintenance order. 

Read more about spousal maintenance.


Further reading about de facto relationships and de facto law


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