You may have heard the Latin term de facto which simply means “in fact”, used to describe various practices that exist in the real world, whether or not they are recognised officially as law, as opposed to practices that are de jure, meaning “by law’. The term de facto is often used in legal conversations, especially regarding relationships between people. This could be an informal business partnership, or, more often, a life partnership resembling marriage. According to a 2016 census one in six Australians over the age of 15 are eschewing traditional legal marriages for de facto relationships.
Despite the lifestyle looseness associated with the term, a modicum of family law still applies to such non-formal partnerships. Formal marriages have certain automatic rights, responsibilities, and protections associated with them, some of which also apply to de facto relationships if they are deemed sufficiently “serious”. The term was defined legally in the 1975 Family Law Act which maintains that it applies to two people living with each other on a genuine domestic basis. A de facto relationship doesn’t apply to people who are related to each other, or who are legally married.
Once you and your partner achieve relationship status de facto certain laws begin to be applied to you. A relationship that has evolved beyond just ‘boyfriend and girlfriend’ is recognised by law whether you both intend it to be or not! Such couples who decide it’s time to break up are often surprised to find themselves in a separation process that is much more complicated than who gets to keep what piece of furniture! It’s important to know ahead of time what your legal status is before going your separate ways, or you might find your ex demanding you sell the property you have been sharing, and demand half of the proceeds!
What are some of the conditions that might determine your relationship is de facto that the courts will examine?
- How long you have been cohabiting?
- How many of your possessions are considered to be shared, or not?
- Any children you have had together.
- The public’s impression of your relationship.
- How much you are financially dependent on each other.
- If you are having sex, or not.
- If your de facto relationship is registered with the government.
So, keep this in mind if you are considering moving in with your partner! True love today can be a love lost tomorrow!