A de facto relationship, like marriage, is governed by the Family Law Act of 1975, s 4(1).Under this law, de facto couples enjoy the same rights as married couples. But how do we define a de facto relationship?
When determining whether a relationship between unmarried persons creates the same legal protections as a marriage, Courts consider the following factors:
While the law encourages de facto couples to make a genuine effort in resolving property disputes before instituting legal action, in some cases, it is just unavoidable. The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court have jurisdiction over applications for financial orders relating to the division of properties. However, to be qualified for a property settlement you need to prove that the relationship existed for at least two years. Otherwise, you are required to submit additional proof in order to claim for a property settlement.
The Family Law Act provides for guiding principles in resolving property disputes. The Court will look into the current asset and debts in the relationship, direct and indirect financial contributions and non-financial contributions of both parties, and the future needs of the partner or if there are children involved. Read more about property settlement.
Two years after separation is the time limit set to apply for property settlement or maintenance as a matter of right when the separating parties were not married. Once the two years limit has prescribed, such applications are subject to the consent of both parties and the discretion of the court. On the other hand, there is no time limit set for applications of child support.
Matters relating to the children of de facto couples fall under the Family Law Act and thus are dealt with through The Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.
Under the Child Support (Assessment) Act, the primary carer of children from a de facto relationship can make a claim for child support from the other parent. The Child Support Agency is responsible for administering your child support arrangements and assessing the amount of support which should be provided. The decision is based on each parent's income, the number of children and their living arrangements.
Spousal maintenance is not a benefit automatically granted by the court. Provisions in the Family Law Act 1975, specifically section 72 and section 90SF(1), provides for guidelines in determining if a person is entitled to a maintenance order. The court will only make an order after gauging the needs and circumstances of the person applying for spousal maintenance and the capacity to provide support by the other person. An additional consideration is if a child is living with the person who filed the application.
Applications for spousal maintenance must be filed with Family Courts within two years from the time of separation. Naturally, if either party dies or the applicant remarries the spousal maintenance obligation ceases.