Fair Share: Property Division in De Facto Relationships


LawThe matter of property settlement in de facto relationships is so much more complicated than you think. Some believe that since they are not technically married, what’s “theirs” is still theirs when they decide to call it quits. This isn’t what the law prescribes, however.

Under Australian law, separating de facto couples have the same rights and obligations as married people when tackling division of assets. Attorneys from Dixie Ann Middleton & Associates encourages those involved in the same to seek legal counsel when it comes to complex cases like these.

What is a De Facto Couple?

The first thing to settle in property settlements in de facto relationships is whether you are indeed in such a relationship. The law would consider you as in a de facto couple if you satisfy these three things: (1) you are not legally married to each other; (2) you are not relatives; (3) you are in a relationship and live together in a “genuine domestic basis”.

The court decides if you are living together in a genuine domestic basis based on different factors, including how long the relationship has lasted, whether sexual union exists, how financially dependent you are on each other, and how you acquire and use assets.

How Courts Decide on the Split

There is a time limit of two years from the date of a relationship’s end to forward a property claim. The Family Law Act 1975 requires you to file an application proving that there indeed existed a de facto relationship that lasted at least two years. Proving the two year period may not be necessary, however, if you have had a child together.

The court will decide on a fair and just division based on the assets owned before the relationship started. They will look at the length of the relationship and the contributions each party made to improve assets. These contributions may be direct, indirect, or non-financial.

Direct financial contributions include wages or payments for a house, while indirect may refer to inheritances from loved ones. Non-financial contributions can take the form of DIY renovations, domestic tasks, etc.

The judge will also consider net value of the current assets, valuing properties, such as houses, shares, and superannuation.

Property settlements in de facto relationships are a complex matter. To ensure a well-informed decision, consult family law attorneys.