A de facto relationship as defined under s 4AA of the Family Law Act refers to a relationship between two people of different or same sex who are not married to each other and who are not members of the same family. The parties to a de facto relationship must be living together as a couple for the purpose of establishing a genuine domestic life together.
To make a cohabitation agreement a binding contract between the parties, its terms must be reduced in writing and signed by the parties. Each of the parties must have their independent legal counsel who will render advice on the effects and implications of the agreement they propose to enter. Both the legal counsels of the parties must execute a certification that they had given legal advice to the parties and they must also furnish each other copies of the certification.
The parties to a de facto relationship may sign a written agreement prior to commencing a de facto relationship which will then govern the property relations within the relationship. The cohabitation agreements entered into prior to the commencement of a de facto relationship are equivalent to pre-nuptial agreements. The purpose of these is usually to isolate or quarantine certain properties the parties may bring into the marriage to preserve it for themselves or for their heirs. This is governed under s90UA of the FLA 1975.
A cohabitation agreement during the existence of the relationship is governed by s90UB and it may govern the property relations of the parties during the de facto relationship or in the event of its breakdown. It may also include provisions which isolate and exempt certain properties from settlement between the parties when they separate. When de facto relationship breaks down, the parties may enter into a financial agreement to govern the settlement of their properties as well. It may also include provisions which provide the amount and frequency of child support partner maintenance.
Cohabitation agreements are complicated legal matters which must be entered into by the parties after consultation and advice from a family lawyer. Protect yourself and consult with a family lawyer before entering a cohabitation agreement.