De facto Partners
De facto relationships are not recognised at common law. Accordingly, there are no criteria for identifying de facto relationships that can be gleaned from case law.
The Family Law Act, however, defines a “de facto relationship” as two people who “have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.” This definition entails that de facto relationships are not exclusive. Anyone – whether married or not – can be involved in multiple de facto relationships. But no one can be in a de facto relationship with their spouse or a family member.
The definition is coupled with a set of indicia. The indicia assist the court in determining whether the definition applies in the instant case. In particular, they represent circumstances that may evidence the existence a de facto relationship. These circumstances consist of the following:
(a) the duration of the relationship
(b) the nature and extent of their common residence
(c) whether a sexual relationship exists
(d) the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between them
(e) the ownership, use and acquisition of their property
(f) the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life
(g) whether the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory as a prescribed kind of relationship
(h) the care and support of children
(i) the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.
It is important to note that these circumstances are not exhaustive. That much is evident by section 4AA(1)(c) of the Act. This section provides that determining whether a de facto relationship exists depends on “…all the circumstances of [the parties’] relationship…”
If you are in a de facto relationship that has ended, you may be entitled to relief under the Family Law Act. To determine whether this is so, we recommend that you contact our office to arrange an initial consultation.