What to know about the legalities around de facto relationships

Published 27 Feb 2019

Other than a slip of paper, is there any real difference between a de facto relationship and marriage? Australian law recognises both on a largely equal standing. Despite this, there are still some important aspects that individuals need to consider.

Recognition of rights

A married couple has immediate access to particular rights. The legal certificate that comes along with the ceremony is all that's needed as proof.

For de facto couples, it's not so simple. The law might treat them equally, however they must first prove their relationship. Doing so can involve a significant amount of time and resources, putting them at a disadvantage in comparison to married couples.

To authenticate a partnership, a Court needs details around living situations, childcare and finances. The couple may also have to provide more personal information around their intimate relationship and show how they are committed to each other heading into the future. It's not uncommon for the Court to seek further verification from friends and family as well.

Additionally, while de facto relationships are recognised within Australia, they may not have the same international rights, whereas a marriage is generally accepted wherever the couple might travel.

Difference in recognition of de facto relationships under law

How Courts recognise a de facto relationship changes depending on which state you're in and which legislation you're dealing with.

For example, if a couple uses IVF, how the law determines the child's parentage depends on their relationship. If married, both spouses are automatically legal parents. However, for a de facto partnership it depends on whether the couple has proven their relationship exists or not.

How long you've been together or lived with one another affects your status as a de facto partnership. For Centrelink, a part of the Government's Department of Human Services, as soon as you begin living together you're recognised as a de facto relationship.

Migration law, however, waits until you've lived with one another for 12 months. Other factors are taken into consideration along with this, such as whether you have children together or if de facto relationships are allowed in your country of origin.

De facto relationships change again for family law - the period of time increases to two years, unless you register your relationship, make significant contributions towards it (such as joint investments in property) or have children.

If you want to understand how to manage your rights within a de facto relationship or marriage, make sure you reach out to the team of legal professionals at Malouf Solicitors today.

Please call us on 02 8833 2000 to speak with a lawyer

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