What is a De Facto Relationship?

De facto relationships are defined as having regard to all of the circumstances of a relationship, two people are or were in a relationship as a couple, living together on a genuine domestic basis.

To work out if two people are in a relationship as a couple, the Court will consider the following factors:

  • The duration of the parties’ relationship;
  • How long the parties have lived together, if at all;
  • If a sexual relationship exists between the parties;
  • The level of financial dependence/co-dependency of the parties;
  • If the parties owned property together, or separately;
  • If the parties enjoyed the use of one another’s property;
  • If the parties had a commitment to a shared life together, and the level of that commitment;
  • If the relationship was registered as a Civil Partnership with the Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages (or the equivalent State or Territory registration);
  • If the parties have children together;
  • The care of any children of the relationship, or of either party to the relationship; and
  • The public perception of the parties’ relationship.

The Court will carefully think about the collective effect of all of the above factors when they determine whether or not a de facto relationship existed. No one factor is determinative and the overall circumstances of the parties’ relationship will be considered.

A de facto relationship can exist between two people of the same sex or two people of the opposite sex. A de facto relationship cannot exist between two people who are married to one another or two people whom are connected by family (such as parent and child and siblings).

You may be a party to two separate de facto relationships at the same time or a person can be married to one person and simultaneously in a de facto relationship with another.

The Court needs to make a declaration that a de facto relationship existed, if the parties were not married, before it can make orders altering the proprietary interests of the parties and other issues such as spousal maintenance. Usually, establishing that a de facto relationship exists will be a formality because both parties consent to the Court’s jurisdiction under the de facto provisions in the Family Law Act.

However in some cases, the Court will first be tasked with making determining whether a de facto relationship existed between the parties.

In addition to the requirement for the relation to be one of two people living together on a genuine domestic basis, for the Court to make a declaration that a de facto relationship exists, the Court needs to satisfy itself of one of the following:

  • That the parties were a de facto relationship for at least 2 years; or
  • That the parties have a child of their de facto relationship; or
  • That the Applicant made substantial contributions to the relationship; or
  • That if the Court failed to make the declaration, the Applicant would suffer a serious injustice; or
  • The Relation was registered under a prescribed State or Territory law, for example the relation was registered as a Civil Partnership with the Queensland Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.

The Court may also be asked to make a declaration about the duration of a de facto relationship, when a de facto relationship is taken to have commenced and/or ended. The Family Law Act applies to de facto relationships that have ended on or after 1 March 2009.

When making an application under the de facto provisions of the Family Law Act, it is important to keep in mind that limitation periods and jurisdictional requirements exist.


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