What’s next? Many young couples nowadays are moving in together for both romantic and financial reasons. Whilst there are many practical considerations, there are also a number of legal considerations to take into account.

 Your Rights

De Facto law is often misunderstood and certain jurisdictional factors must be met in order for a relationship to be deemed in a de facto relationship. A person is in a de facto relationship with another person if:

  1. the persons are not legally married to each other; and
  2. the persons are not related by family (see subsection (6)); and
  3. having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis: see s4AA Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

There are many factors that the Court must take into account including but not limited to factors such as:

  1. the duration of the relationship;
  2. the nature and extent of their common residence;
  3. whether a sexual relationship exists;
  4. the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between them;
  5. the ownership, use and acquisition of their property;
  6. the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  7. whether the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory as a prescribed kind of relationship;
  8. the care and support of children; and
  9. the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

There need not be any particular finding in relation to any circumstances in deciding whether the de facto relationship exists, rather the Court looks at each case individually and assigns a weight to the evidence as it deems appropriate.

Breakdown

Sometimes the breakdown of a de facto relationship is not amicable and disputes regarding division of property, or even children, can arise.

Ways to sort out how to divide property are:

  • By agreement between the parties, filed with the court; or
  • By applying to the court and seeking their intervention to make orders on your behalf.

The courts have the authority to make an order for the division of any property the couple owns together or separately. The court can also order a split of any superannuation assets, or enforce a party to pay spousal maintenance.

Protect Your Assets 

Anything acquired before, during the de facto relationship or after the separation can be included in the ‘net asset pool’, regardless of whether the property was jointly or individually owned.

It is a good idea that you and your partner are aware of each other’s assets before moving in together. Outline what you own, as well as any debts you may have, as this helps both parties understand each others financial position prior to moving in.  

What about Pets?

In the breakdown of a de facto relationship, there can be confusion and conflict as to the ownership of your household pet. If neither party can agree as to who the pet should live with, the pet will belong to the partner that bought him/her. Under the current law, pets are considered property and are treated as such.

Did you know….

  • That a de facto relationship can exist between 2 persons of different sexes and between 2 persons of the same sex?
  • That a de facto relationship can exist even if one of the persons is legally married to someone else or in another de facto relationship?

Moving in together is an exciting time, but it is important that you are aware of your rights when in a de facto relationship. If you have any questions, contact the family law solicitors at Owen Hodge Lawyers. Come in and see us before you make the move, an informed decision is always a better one!