Information on Family Legal Matters

When Are You In A De Facto Relationship?

Learn how to tell if you are in a de facto relationship in Queensland and how this can impact your property settlement or separation process.

Often in proceedings for a property settlement or maintenance, the central issue is whether a de facto relationship existed between the parties and, if so, when it commenced or ended.

This is important because if you are in a de facto relationship, your ex-partner may be able to claim a portion of your assets, including superannuation and claim maintenance from you.

Persons will be found to be in a de facto relationship if, having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, they are living together on a genuine domestic basis.

The circumstances of their relationship may include:

  1. Whether a sexual relationship exists.
  2. The extent of a common residence.
  3. The extent to which their finances are intermingled.
  4. Whether assets have been acquired jointly or from a pooling of their respective finances.
  5. The extent they socialise together.
  6. The extent to which they expose their relationship to the outside world.

A de facto relationship does not have to be determined in the same way in every case. You do not need to have all the circumstances present to have a de facto relationship. A party asserting a de facto relationship has the onus of proving it on the balance of probabilities.

While you can register your de facto relationship, you do not need to register your de facto relationship to be in a de facto relationship. A powerful indicator of a de facto relationship is that the persons are living together in a common residence although it is not determinative and the boundaries in defining a de facto relationship are therefore blurred.

In a case heard in Queensland, a Judge was told that, over a period of 13 years, the parties saw each other for 4 to 6 days every month, holidayed and travelled together overseas, and the male party paid for the female partner’s apartment and deposited regular sums to her bank account. They did not own any property together. The male party was married during the entire relationship.

The judge decided that they were not in a de facto relationship. The Judge was not satisfied that their lives had merged to the required extent to come within the definition.

In another case, parties who had two children together, but had never lived together, were found not have been in a de facto relationship.

A Court may divide the assets of a de facto couple if a de facto relationship lasted for at least 2 years.

When a de facto relationship ended can be relevant.
For a de facto relationship to end, there must be unequivocal, unconditional, and unambiguous communication from one party to the other of the intention to separate.

Evidence of communication that amounts to no more than unhappy periods or contemplating ending the relationship is not enough.

Should you wish to obtain advice as to whether your relationship constitutes a de factor or ways to protect your assets from claim if your de facto relationship ends, then please contact me or a member of my team.