De Facto Beware

12 JUN 2019


As we continue to see changing attitudes in society towards couples living together and a reluctance to get married, it begs the question what happens to couples living together in a relationship if it doesn’t work out?

The distinction between de facto couples and married couples has continued to decrease. It is becoming more common for couples to “try before you buy” according to Melbourne University Social Sciences researcher, Belinda Hewitt.

In 2009, de facto disputes were moved from the state jurisdiction into the federal jurisdiction allowing the Family and Federal Circuit Courts to deal with these issues.  The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) now underpins what happens to parties’ assets and liabilities if they are in a de facto relationship - being the same as if the parties were married. Judges will look at a just and equitable way to split the assets, the couple's asset pool, how much they each contributed and if they have any future needs. Because of this one party if not both may seek a property settlement not because one person in the relationship did something wrong, but because they have an entitlement to, based on the above approach.

It is important when getting involved in a new relationship or moving in with your partner that the above is kept in mind. If the relationship doesn’t last, people may find themselves in a position where their ex-partner is seeking a property settlement.  Getting advice before this occurs can be helpful for planning for the future and so that parties can discuss their options amicably prior to any breakdown to avoid future animosity and potentially legal costs.

If you require more information on the above article contact Nevine Youssef on (02) 4626 5077 or

The contents of this publication are for reference purposes only. This publication does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Specific legal advice should always be sought separately before taking any action based on this publication.

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