This article delves into the process for handling parenting matters, property settlement, and spousal maintenance within the context of de facto relationships under Australian family law.

In Australia's ever-evolving legal landscape, de facto relationships have gained recognition as legitimate unions. Under the Family Law Act, de facto couples enjoy similar rights and responsibilities as their married counterparts.

De Facto Relationships Defined

A de facto relationship is a union between two people who live together as a couple without being married. These relationships can be between individuals of the opposite sex or same sex. They are legally recognized and come under the purview of the Family Law Act, highlighting the growing recognition of diverse forms of partnerships.

Process for Parenting Matters

When it comes to parenting matters within de facto relationships, the Family Law Act applies similar principles as it does to married couples:

  1. Best Interests of the Child: The paramount consideration in parenting matters is the best interests of the child. Courts assess factors such as the child's relationship with both parents, their safety, wellbeing, and developmental needs.

  2. Parental Responsibility: De facto parents share parental responsibility for the child, irrespective of whether they were married or in a de facto relationship. This responsibility involves making decisions about the child's care, schooling, health, and religion.

  3. Parenting Plans: De facto couples can create parenting plans that outline how they will care for and support their children. These plans can cover issues such as custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and communication between parents and children.

Process for Property Settlement

Property settlement in de facto relationships involves dividing assets and liabilities between the partners, mirroring the process for married couples:

  1. Equitable Distribution: The guiding principle is that property should be divided fairly and justly, considering both financial and non-financial contributions made during the relationship.

  2. Financial Agreements: De facto couples can enter into financial agreements that outline how their property will be divided in the event of a separation. These agreements can provide clarity and minimize potential disputes.

Process for Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance refers to financial support provided by one partner to the other following a separation. The process is similar for de facto relationships as it is for married couples:

  1. Eligibility: A partner may be eligible for spousal maintenance if they are unable to support themselves adequately after the relationship ends.

  2. Factors Considered: Courts consider factors such as the recipient's financial needs, the paying partner's capacity to provide support, and the standard of living enjoyed during the relationship.


De facto relationships hold legal weight under Australian family law, affording couples similar rights and responsibilities as married couples. Whether it's navigating parenting matters, property settlement, or spousal maintenance, the Family Law Act provides a framework that caters to the diverse needs of individuals in de facto relationships. Understanding this process and seeking legal advice when necessary can help individuals navigate these aspects of family law effectively and ensure a fair and equitable resolution for all parties involved.