How Long Do You Need to Live Together to be in a De Facto Relationship?

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This article was written by Amelia Trotman - National Practice Director – Brisbane

Amelia is an accredited family law specialist and has practised in family law for over 15 years.  Over that time she has developed an excellent reputation and a leading family lawyer in complex parenting matters (including domestic and international relocation matters and matters involving family violence) as well as complex financial matters involving complex asset structures, spouse maintenance and financial...

When Does A Relationship Become a De Facto Relationship?

Many people believe that a couple needs to live together for a set period of time before they can be considered to be living in a de facto relationship. In fact, there is no set time period that a couple needs to be living together before they can be considered to be living in a de facto relationship. However, the Family Law Act generally does not apply to de facto relationships unless the couple has been living together for at least two years OR there is at least one child of the relationship.

De facto relationships come in all shapes and sizes. There is no checklist of factors to prove that a couple is living in a de facto relationship. However, the matters that are considered when assessing whether two people are in a de facto relationship include:

  • whether they are living together;
  • how long they have been living together;
  • whether they have a sexual relationship;
  • whether they share joint bank accounts;
  • whether they own property together;
  • whether they share weekly living costs like electricity or telephone bills;
  • whether their family and friends know them as a couple;
  • whether they have any children together.

A person can only ask a court to make an order about financial matters after the breakdown of a relationship if the relationship was a marriage or a de facto relationship. Financial matters include property settlements, spousal maintenance matters and superannuation splits.

There are strict requirements that a person must satisfy before a court can even consider making an order for property settlement or spousal maintenance after they separate from their de facto partner. These requirements are:

  • The two parties were in a de facto relationship and that relationship has ended;
  • Either:
    • The de facto relationship was for at least two years;


  • If the de facto relationship was shorter than two years then:
    • The person who wants an order has made a substantial contribution; and
    • To not make an order would result in serious injustice to the person applying for an order;


  • There is a child of the de facto relationship;


  • The de facto relationship is registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory;
  • That the couple was living in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Australian Capital Territory, Northern Territory, South Australia or Tasmania (“the participating States”) when they separated;


  • One person of the de facto relationship was living in Victoria or another participating State when Court proceedings were commenced for an order;


  • Either:
  • The couple lived at least a 1/3 of the de facto relationship in Victoria or any other participating state;


  • The person who has commenced proceedings for an order has made a substantial contribution in relation to the de facto relationship.

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

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