Understanding your legal rights in a de facto relationship

Today, the law recognises the many different forms and shapes that relationships and families take. Married, non-married, de facto and same sex couplings are all different relationship varietals that affect legal rights.

Because of the broad and wide definitions of de facto relationships, many people don’t realise that they are actually in one. If you’re in a de facto relationship, do you know your legal rights? A relationship is given de facto status, for property settlement purposes, when two people have lived together for 2 years and are not married. Since 1999, same sex couples may also be recognised for family law purposes as in a de facto relationship.

Recently, inconsistencies in the law have been ironed out. For example, the law now stipulates that de facto spouses can seek property settlement in the same way as married couples, relying on the same laws and using the same court systems. In addition, financial agreements similar to prenuptial agreements in Australia for de facto couples can also be made and enforced.

If you’re in a de facto relationship, here are a few things that you should understand about de facto relationship law.

Legal rights and responsibilities.

Many of the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by de facto spouses are similar to that of married couples. For example, should one spouse pass away, the other maybe entitled to:

  • A share of any property or assets not listed in any will of the deceased spouse.
  • Compensation under workers compensation law (if your partner dies while at or due to work).
  • Financial assistance under the Succession Act
  • Social Security under the Commonwealth Social Security Act.
  • Death benefits from a superannuation scheme

Binding Financial Agreements for de facto relationships.

Wondering what the equivalent is to a prenuptial agreements in Australia , for de facto couples? That would be a Binding Financial Agreement, or BFA. Binding Financial Agreements can be arranged when entering into, or during a de facto relationship. Binding agreements are similar to pre-nuptial agreements in Australia, for de facto couples. Legally binding agreements are a good idea for those who would like to keep control of their assets when entering into a de facto relationship, or for couples who want to stipulate what is to occur should the relationship end. Binding agreements are available to same sex and heterosexual couples.

Registering a de facto relationship.

De facto couples in NSW, ACT, Victoria and Tasmania can register their de facto relationship. By registering a de facto relationship, the certificate can be used as proof of the existence and duration of the relationship, and help reap other rights.

When children are involved.

De facto relationship breakdowns can be difficult with children involved. Issues concerning all children, whether their parents were in a de facto relationship or married, come under federal law. The Family Law Act stipulates that generally responsibility for the child lies with both parents. It is also possible, therefore, for the primary carer of a child to claim child support from the other parent. The legal implications of de facto relationships involving children can be significant. Child support solicitors can be helpful in determining such arrangements.

If you’re in a de facto relationship, then make sure you know your legal rights and responsibilities, so you can enjoy the legal benefits of being in a recognised relationship, and protect your rights should the relationship break down.

Pre-nuptial agreement information relating to Australian laws