At first blush, this looks like a complicated question. First of all, there is the matter of protecting assets in a de facto relationship. Secondly, there is a visa question. The icing on the cake is either the fact or the fear of a relationship breakdown, which could ultimately require one party to leave Australia.
Actually, although this is certainly an issue that should be discussed with an attorney, the situation is not quite as multi-layered as it looks because of two simple rules:
- De facto partners have the same rights as married partners if and when a relationship ends; and
- A migrant on a Permanent or Temporary Partner Visa have the same rights under the Family Law Act 1975 as an Australian citizen. Applications for property settlements and parenting orders can be entered into by either the visa partner or the citizen partner.
Therefore, the way to protect your assets when your other half is on a partner visa is much the same as the way you would protect your assets in any other de facto or married relationship — with a Binding Financial Agreement. The best advice, of course, is to settle financial matters before disputes arise.
Practical steps to take
The best approach may be to keep your finances separate from the beginning. Typically, this may include:
- not combining your finances in any way – don’t have a joint bank account or joint ownership of property or vehicles;
- having your partner contribute board or rent if you rent or if you alone own the home where you live together;
- maintaining individual responsibility for debts and liabilities, including credit cards;
- making financial decisions independently; and
- not naming your partner as the beneficiary of your Will, superannuation funds or life insurance policies.
Remember that protecting assets is not the whole story
Should your relationship with a partner who is on a partnership visa fail, there will certainly be other complications, including your former partner’s ability to remain in Australia. If there is a child of the relationship, that is even more true.
Consider that the law protects the rights of that child, especially if the child is an Australian citizen, separate and apart from the rights of sparring parents. Asset protection is part of the picture, but not the whole thing, which is yet another reason to have the counsel of an attorney who understands both areas of law. At that point, it really does become a complicated question.
If you have questions about how to protect your assets from your partner who is on a partner visa, the attorneys at Owen Hodge Lawyers would be happy to advise you. Please call us to schedule a consultation at 1800 770 780.