Australia: Try before you buy: why the demise of de facto couples is higher than married couples

Last Updated: 12 March 2017
Article by Murray Thornhill

Divorce on the rise

It is apparent from the 2015 divorce statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, that Perth is seeing a rise in the divorce rate.

In 2015, 48,517 divorces were granted in Australia, which is a 4.3% increase from the 2014 results.

Western Australia had the largest increase in the number of divorces granted in 2015, with a total of 4,992 divorces granted which was an increase of 10.5%, from 2014.

Try before you buy

It is no secret that there has been an increase in cohabitation prior to marriage over the last twenty years.

The University of Melbourne conducted the HILDA Survey on Families, Incomes and Jobs, which was published in 2012. The results showed that de facto couples were six times more likely to separate than de facto couples who married after cohabitating. There are many reasons why it is believed that there is a high separation rate of de facto couples who do not get married, some of which we have discussed below.

  1. Parties are moving in together as part of the selection process prior to marriage.
  2. People are taking their time whilst cohabiting as a de facto couple to get to know everything about one another before taking the plunge into marriage.

  1. Parties may tend to cohabitate for convenience
  2. With the ever increasing property market, lack of employment opportunities and higher cost of living parties may seek to cohabitate to cut the cost of every day life. Therefore the decision to live as a de facto couple in many cases is a commercial decision rather than a romantic one.

  1. Weddings are costing a pretty penny
  2. De facto couples may face a higher rate of separation due to the increasing cost of a wedding in Australia. Data from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission shows that the average cost for a wedding in Australia is $36,200. Therefore, parties may cohabitate longer in order to save for the expense of the wedding, in some cases people may take years to save. This period of extended cohabitation may ultimately lead to separation. Alternatively, the financial pressure which the potential cost of a wedding puts on parties may also cause relationship stress.

Implications

Living in a de facto relationship gives some parties a false sense of security; with many holding the view that as long as they are not married they are not likely to be subject to property settlement.

Unfortunately for many parties they only discover that they are vulnerable to a property settlement claim following the demise of their de facto relationship.

If you are currently living with a boyfriend or girlfriend and your relationship fulfils one or more of these requirements, you can be considered to be in a de facto relationship:

  1. There has been a de facto relationship between the parties for at least 2 years; There is a child of the relationship who is under the age of 18 years and the failure of the Court to intervene to make an order for property settlement would result in a serious injustice for the partner caring for or responsible for the child;
  2. The Applicant or person who is seeking property settlement has made substantial contributions, these are not just financial contributions, these contributions also include non-financial contributions and contributions as the homemaker or parent; and
  3. In order for the Family Court of Western Australia to have jurisdiction both parties must have lived in Western Australia for one third of their relationship alternatively one of the parties must have made their substantial contributions in Western Australia.

If you are in a defacto relationship and are concerned or unsure about your entitlements as a de facto partner you should seek specific advice from a specialist Family Lawyer.

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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Authors
Murray Thornhill
 
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