In many circumstances where you have formed a close domestic relationship with someone, upon the breakdown of your close domestic relationship the law may deal with the property and children of the relationship in the same terms as if you had been married.

Is the relationship de-facto in the eyes of the law?

For the law to apply, it must first be established that a de facto relationship existed between two people, a de facto relationship may exist between people of opposite sex or of the same sex.

When considering whether or not a de facto relationship exists the Court looks at all the circumstances of the relationship, including: the degree of financial interdependence and financial support, the care arrangements for any children, the nature of your common residence, the length of the relationship, the commitment to a shared life, the acquisition, ownership and use of property and the reputation and public aspect of the relationship.

How long are you in the relationship to be considered de-facto?

Generally your de facto relationship must have continued for a period of two years to be recognised by the law and the Court is then in a position to make orders regarding the parenting of your children and adjusting property interests, however in cases where there are children involved or a substantial injustice would occur if no adjustment were made regarding property,  the Court may intervene despite the short duration of the relationship.

What happens if the relationship ends?

If your de facto relationship broke down before the end of February 2009, then the property and children of the relationship are dealt with under the laws of each individual State, in NSW this is the Property (Relationships) Act. The provisions of this act are mean that the Court is restricted in the relief that it may grant to parties to proceedings and the matters that it may take into consideration when looking at the contributions of the parties and their needs into the future.

If your de facto relationship broke down on or after 1 March 2009, then the provisions of the Family Law Act will generally apply and the Federal Circuit Court or the Family Court will determine any dispute, in this case the Court has a wider discretion and has the power to take account of a wider number of factors, past present and future when determining children and property matters.

How soon should matters be settled after the relationship ends?

Generally, any application to the Court to finalise property matters between yourself and your former de facto partner should be commenced within two years of the relationship ending, when determining an application regarding the division of the property of the de facto relationship the Court will look at the financial contributions of the parties such as employment income, investment income and property brought into the relationship, as well as non-financial contributions such as time and labour spent maintaining the household, the children or working in a business carried on as part of the relationship.