De facto Relationships
In July 2010, the Family Law Act was amended to provide that parties to a de facto relationship are entitled to make claims for property settlement and spousal maintenance, and the law applicable to such claims is exactly as if they were legally married.
This is a Federal law, and is therefore the same throughout Australia. Previously, each state of Australia had their own laws to deal with de facto relationships.
What is a De facto relationship?
A de facto relationship is defined as the relationship between two people living together on a genuine domestic basis. De facto relationships include same sex relationships. The recent amendments to the Marriage Act have had no effect on this issue. Same sex couples have for some time enjoyed the same rights for property settlement, financial matters and parenting issues as heterosexual couples. The new amendment simply allows same sex couples to legally marry (and, perhaps, to later divorce).
A person can make a claim for property settlement and/or spousal maintenance if the de facto relationship has existed for at least two years or if there is a child of the relationship.
It can sometimes be difficult to determine whether a de facto relationship exists. The Court will have regard to all of the circumstances of their relationship. Legal advice is essential in determining this issue.