A couple living together in a close personal relationship may be considered by the court to be in a de facto relationship. The court may consider the following factors in determining whether a genuine de facto relationship exists:
- The duration of the relationship
- Whether there was a sexual relationship
- The degree of financial dependence between the parties
- The ownership and use of property
- The care and support of any children
- The nature of the common residence.
A party to a de facto relationship that has ended, may apply to the court for property or maintenance orders in the following circumstances:
- The de facto relationship was of at least two years duration in total
- There is a child of the de facto relationship
- One party made substantial contributions to the relationship and failure to make an order for property adjustment would result in serious injustice to the other party.
De facto Relationships and Agreements
De facto couples are now permitted to enter into binding pre-nuptial agreements and binding cohabitation agreements. Generally, there are three types of financial agreements that parties to a de facto relationship can enter into. They are:
- Pre-nuptial agreements
- Cohabitation agreements; and
- Separation agreements.
A cohabitation agreement can be made prior to entering or during a relationship. A cohabitation agreement covers matters such as who is responsible for expenses and debts and how property is to be divided if the relationships ceases.
A separation agreement is entered into on the breakdown of a relationship or when it ends.