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How to know if you’re legally in a de facto relationship

One question we get asked on a regular basis is “what is a  de-facto relationship and how do I know if I am in one?”. It goes without saying that determining if one is in fact in a legally recognised de-facto relationship is often a confusing topic. De-facto relationships can be a determining factor when it comes to immigration status, Centrelink and other important outcomes, thus making it incredibly important to ensure that you have your ducks in a row when it comes to the legal aspect of your partnership. In today's article, we have a look at how you can determine if you are truly in a de-facto relationship, so read on to find out more!  

What Is The Legal Definition of a De-Facto Relationship?

The official definition of a de-facto relationship for the purposes of the Family Law Act are as follows: A couple that is  not married to each other; are not related by family; but are living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. This definition may seem plain and simple upon first glance, but do not be tricked by its short and concise description. In order to meet all the requirements of a de-facto relationship, many factors are taken into consideration, including:       -     The existence of a sexual relationship
  • The nature and extent of any existing common residence
  • Public aspects and reputation of the relationship
  • Financial dependence and support between the parties
  • Mutual commitment to a shared life displayed by both parties
  • Care and support of any children
  • Nature of the household 
  • Future plans and aspirations as a couple 
It is important to know that no singular factor is given more weight than another when the court decides on whether to grant a de-facto status to a couple. Some other factors that can also come into play depending on individual situations include:       -     Messages, communication and any type of love letters between the parties
  • Statutory declarations from friends and family about the relationship
  • Photos of the couple at public events and on social media
  • Shared bank account statements
  • Whether a person is listed as a spouse on the party’s tax return/Centrelink

Registration of Domestic Relationship

Registered domestic relationships are another way to legally obtain a “de-facto” status and can be very helpful in situations where both parties have been in a de-facto relationship for under the 12 month requirement.  You can apply to register a domestic relationship in Victoria if you are a couple and are both above the age of 18. It is important to note that at least one of the parties will need to reside in Victoria at the time of application. You cannot be married to one another and you must also agree to provide domestic, financial and emotional support to each other. 

Evidence of a De-Facto Relationship

In order to be granted “de-facto” status, couples will have to provide a wide array of evidence to the courts that prove the domestic, financial and emotional support towards one another.  Evidence for Nature of The Household include:
  • The usual occupants in the house and the relationships between them.
  • The set up of the home, including a shared bedroom, common area and study area.
  • How the household chores are shared - who does the cooking and cleaning? 
Evidence for Financial Aspects include
  • Both names listen on a lease/mortgage agreements
  • Both names on utility bills such as water, electricity, internet and gas 
  • Whether one or both parties are providing financial support to the other, directly or indirectly Claiming dependence on issues concerning taxation, health, insurance, welfare or other purposes
  • Joint ownership of major assets.
  • Joint liabilities such as mortgage or loans
  • One party being nominated as a beneficiary of a will, life insurance policy, superannuation payment or compensation payment
  • Evidence of shared bank accounts
Evidence for the Nature of Commitment include:
  • If the couple have a mutual commitment to the relationship
  • Evidence of emotional support provided to each other, including care provided  in times of physical illness or personal crisis. 
  • Long term plans, goals and aspirations as a couple 
  • Whether the people involved consider that the relationship is likely to continue indefinitely.
  • Personal statements made by both parties on the overall nature of commitment

When To Seek Legal Aid 

While married couples simply need to show a marriage certificate to prove the existence and length of their union, de-facto couples often struggle to gather the evidence necessary to make a compelling claim for their relationship. In such instances, it is always recommended that you seek the advice and services of an experienced legal team.  Working alongside a lawyer will help you ensure that you meet the relationship criteria prior to making your application and to ensure that you are able to provide enough evidence for the Courts to make a declaration of your de-facto relationship.  Call us at 03 9670 7577 today and one of our expert family law legal team members will be happy to assist!