Australia's Family Law recognizes that couples who live
together in a close relationship for two years, or for a shorter
period if they have a child together, can be regarded as being in a
de facto relationship. The law regarding property settlement for de
factos is the same as for married couples and, like property
settlements for married couples, several factors are taken into
consideration when determining a settlement. The law also applies
to same-sex couples.
It's an important issue to
consider when more than one-fifth of Australians aged in their 20s
live with de facto partners and ten per cent of
middle aged folk are now in de facto relationships. Nobody likes
talking division of the spoils while they are still together, but
it can save a lot of heartache and expense if they break up.
It would help to get legal advice early as various circumstances
What if a couple shack up together with no initial thought of
making it a lasting relationship? What if one person moves into the
home of another but makes no financial contribution, or a far
smaller contribution, to the combined living expenses? What if
there is a physical relationship but one of the partners only sees
it is a casual dalliance? What if one of the partners is
If there is a dispute about whether two people were in a de
facto relationship the law considers matters such as the length of
time they've been together (usually a minimum of two years is
required but there are exceptions), whether a sexual relationship
exists, the degree of financial interdependence, whether property
was jointly acquired, used and owned, whether the couple had or
cared for children together, how the relationship was presented in
public and the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life.
It's important to remember that if a couple take out joint
loans and one runs into financial trouble, the other partner can be
left responsible for the entire debt. If a couple buy a home and
the parents of one gift a large amount it could end up being split
between the partners. It would be best to make such a gift a formal
loan agreement so that it doesn't become part of the property
The law takes quite a few things into consideration if one of
the de facto partners seeks a property settlement when they split,
particularly if the couple have a child together. It can be just as
complicated as a property settlement for married couples, so
it's wise to get good legal advice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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