De-facto Relationships and Property

Aug 5, 2020

De-facto Relationships and Property

We regularly receive enquiries about whether or not a person is considered to be in a de-facto relationship.

The concern is that the person does not want the unintended consequence that the property they presently own is subsequently considered to be property of that de-facto relationship and subject to being divided or shared with the other party if their relationship should come to an end.

This is actually a tough question to answer and the short answer is not one that people like to hear, namely “it depends”. I thought it might be useful to tell you about a past case. 

LOCKE & NORTON [2014] FamCA: Ms Locke sought a declaration from the courts that there was a de-facto relationship between herself and Mr Norton. Mr Norton was a man of considerable wealth and had provided significant financial support to Ms Locke. If Ms Lock was successful, she would be entitled to a significant percentage of Mr Norton’s property. The court found that there was no common residence shared bu the parties during the relationship and no property jointly owned by them. Whilst there was an affectionate and physical relationship, there was not a mutual commitment to a shared life together. The application for a declaration that there was a de-facto relationship was dismissed.

The factors which the court took into account in this particular case are just some of the factors which can indicate the existence of a de-facto relationship however, there are others and each case will depend upon its own particular circumstances.

It is important to note that you can be in a de-facto relationship whilst married to another person and you can also be in more than one de-facto relationship at the same time! Furthermore, all of the above also applies to same sex couples.

The numerous considerations the court takes into account to determine if two people are in a de-facto relationship can be found in the Family Law Act 1975, section 4AA, which you can find here.

If you want to establish whether or not you are in a de-facto relationship, or if you think you are entering into one and want to take precautions about protecting property you currently own, it may be sensible to contact us at Northside Lawyers for advice.