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...

How long do you need to live together with your partner to be in 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. There is no set time period for people to be living together before they can be considered to be living in a de facto relationship.

Two people are in de facto relationship the moment that they start living together on a genuine domestic basis. De facto relationships come in “all shapes and sizes”. There is no specific check list of factors to prove that a couple are living in a de facto relationship. Matters that are considered include:

  • Are they living together?
  • How long have they been living together?
  • Do they have a sexual relationship?
  • Do they share any joint bank accounts?
  • Do they own any property together?
  • Do they share weekly living costs like electricity or telephone bills?
  • Do their family and friends know that they are living together as a couple?
  • Do 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 that person was in a de facto relationship with another person. Financial matters include how to divide the assets of the couple or if one of them needs to pay money to the other to help them meet their week to week living expenses.

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 separates from their partner.

These requirements are:

  • The couple were in a de facto relationship and that relationship has ended;
  • Either:
    • The de facto relationship was for at least 2 years;


  • If the de facto relationship was less than 2 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 were 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.


Taking the next step and contacting a family lawyer can be scary. Our lawyers will make you feel comfortable so you can talk about your situation. But first, ask yourself, Do I really need a lawyer?


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