There are many misconceptions about when two people will be considered to be in a defacto relationship. A common belief is that two people will be considered defacto after they have been living together as a couple for two years.
Whilst this definition is not necessarily wrong, it is not the only criteria used to determine whether two people are in a defacto relationship.
Under the Family Law Act, a person will be considered to be in a defacto relationship if they are not legally married to each other, the persons are not related by family and having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.
Unfortunately, this definition does not give a straightforward or clear answer about what exactly is a defacto relationship.
The legislation does however provide a list of factors which will go towards determining whether two people were in a defacto relationship. These include:
- the duration of the relationship;
- the nature and extent of their common residence;
- whether a sexual relationship existed;
- the degree of financial dependence or financial support between the parties;
- the ownership, use and acquisition of their property.
- the degree of mutual commitment towards a shared life;
- the care and support of children; and
- the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.
Why is it important to know if I am defacto or not?
The Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia deals with issues relating to separation of married and defacto couples including issues relating to the division of a couples’ property.
The Court only has jurisdiction to deal with the couple’s property if those two people are married or otherwise in a defacto relationship. If the Court finds that you are not in a defacto relationship, you or your ex-partner will not be able to make a claim on the other’s property.
How do I protect my assets from my partner?
One option to protect your assets from a new partner, is to enter into a binding financial agreement. A binding financial agreement can be entered into at any time during or after the breakdown of a relationship. A binding financial agreement made during the relationship will set out how your property will be divided upon a separation.
Some other practical ways to ensure to include:
- keeping your finances separate
- avoiding purchasing property together
- avoid allowing your partner to contribute financially or non-financially to your property (other than paying a money equivalent to rent or board)
Even if you achieve all of the above, the Court may still find that your ex-partner has a claim to your property.
If you would like to find out more information, or to book a consult, please call us on 4322 0251 or email [email protected]