We have seen a significant shift in a greater number of the population moving away from ‘traditional’ lifestyle choices. Increasing amounts of young couples are now choosing to live with their partners before getting married and begin a family. That is not to say that there isn’t a proportion of the community still opting to choose the traditional path with matters concerning marriages and raising a family. However, we are increasingly seeing more and more young couples deciding to purchase a home or start a family before getting married.

At the same time, older couples are getting divorced and a number of people, both young and old are choosing to live in de facto relationships rather than making the legally recognised commitment of marriage.

Society is adapting in its acceptance and integration of these new ways and consequently legislation and other regulatory processes have been and continue to be amended to in order to accommodate the changes.

Consequently, as with legislation that determines what happens when marriages break down, it has become necessary to implement laws that govern various aspects of de facto relationship and their break downs as well.

Perhaps the biggest issue de facto couples are faced with in the breakdown of a de facto relationship is what to do with the property, or sometimes even properties, that they co-own together. On 1 March 2009, laws governing the division of property for people in de facto relationships that break down were enacted.

The laws enable the Family Law Courts to order the division of any property that a couple owns, either separately or together with each other, as well as the split of the superannuation held by each partner and spouse maintenance.

In order to satisfy the conditions of the new ‘defacto’ legislation, which applies to any post 1 March 2009 (1/7/10 in S.Aust) break ups, certain of the following criteria will be used to determine whether there is indeed a defacto relationship:

•  the period (or the total of the periods) of the de facto relationship is at least 2 years

•  there is a child of the de facto relationship

•  degree of commitment to a shared life

•  reputation and public aspects of their relationship

•  one of the partners made substantial financial or non-financial contributions to their property or as a homemaker or parent and serious injustice to that partner would result if the order was not made, or

•  the de facto relationship has been registered in a State or Territory with laws for the registration of relationships.

What is considered a de facto relationship?

According to Family Relationship Online, an Australian Government website:

“A de facto relationship is a relationship that two people who are not married or related by family have as a couple living together on a ‘genuine domestic basis’.

It can exist between 2 people of the opposite sex, or between 2 people of the same sex.”

Whilst it is a federal family law regime, the new laws apply to relationships that have a geographical connection with New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, the Northern Territory or Norfolk Island.

Relationship and marriage break downs can be emotional and stressful times especially when property and children are involved. If you need advice in regards to property division or other family law matters, contact the lawyers at The Quinn Group by calling 1300 QUINNS or click here to submit an online enquiry form.