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What’s the Difference Between a De Facto Relationship and Marriage?

What Is the Difference Between a De Facto Relationship and Marriage in the Eyes of the Law?

The make-up of the modern household is quite different to what it used to be even just a generation ago. As a result, the definition of spousal relationships has also changed in the eyes of the law. Today, de facto couples (same sex and heterosexual) are entitled to almost the same rights and claims when it comes to Family Law matters in relation to property, financial settlements, maintenance and arrangements for the children of the relationship.

How Does the Law Define a De Facto Relationship?

The definition of a de facto relationship is outlined in the Family Law Act. The law requires that two people, who may be of the same or opposite sex, have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. That said, there are many criteria in the Act which will be looked at to decide if a particular relationship is actually to come within this definition of a De Facto relationship.  However, the relationship is not a de facto relationship if the couple is legally married to one another or if they are related by family. Feel free to contact us for further advice regarding de-facto relationships in the eyes of the law in Australia.

There are four “gateway” criteria that are used to assess whether a claim for property settlement or maintenance can be made in respect of the de facto relationship when it comes to Family Law matters:

  1. That the period of the de facto relationship was at least 2 years;
  2. That there is a child of the de facto relationship;
  3. That the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory.
  4. That significant contributions were made or being made by one party and the failure to make an order would result in a serious injustice.

For any relationship that ended after March 2009, and which meets at least one of the four “gateway” requirements for de facto relationships, parties are able to commence proceedings in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court. The Courts will then deal with the matter in a very similar way they would with a legally married couple commencing proceedings, although for an understanding of where the differences lie or how the law might apply in your own situation, please contact one of our experienced family lawyers for an obligation free consultation.

Living Together

For individuals who are considering entering into a de facto relationship by moving in together, or who have moved in together, it is important to understand the implications of such an arrangement.

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