De Facto Relationship Breakups – What Are My Entitlements?

by | Jul 4, 2024

In Australia, de facto relationships are legally recognised and come with entitlements similar to those of married couples, especially when it comes to breakups. Understanding these de facto relationship break-up entitlements is crucial for anyone navigating the end of a de facto relationship.

We’ll explain everything around de facto relationship break-up entitlements below. Firstly though, let’s begin by answering the question – What is a de-facto relationship?

What is a De Facto Relationship?

A de facto relationship is a relationship between two people, of the same or opposite sex, who live together on a genuine domestic basis but are not legally married to each other. This concept encompasses a wide range of relationships and is recognised across Australia in both federal and state laws.

What Constitutes a De Facto Relationship In The Eyes of the Law?

In the eyes of the law, several factors determine whether a relationship is considered de facto. These include:

  • Duration of the relationship
  •     Nature and extent of common residence
  •     Whether a sexual relationship exists
  •     Degree of financial dependence or interdependence
  •     Ownership, use and acquisition of property
  •     Degree of mutual commitment to a shared life
  •     Care and support of children
  • Reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

That covers the question of what is a de facto relationship, so now let’s move deeper into understanding de facto relationship break-up entitlements.

Why Understanding Legal Entitlements Matters After A Breakup

Knowing your legal entitlements is essential because it affects your financial stability, living arrangements and overall well-being post-breakup. Being informed can help you navigate the legal system more effectively, ensuring your rights and interests are adequately protected.

Let’s add more detail on this to help understand what, legally, a de facto relationship is, and what de facto relationship break-up entitlements might be.

Understanding De Facto Relationships

Under Law – A De Facto Relationship

Under the Family Law Act 1975, a de facto relationship is defined based on several criteria, without a need for registration.

A couple must have lived together for at least two years (unless they have a child together), have registered their relationship, or significant contributions (financial or otherwise) were made by one party.

How These Relationships Are Legally Recognised

De facto relationships are legally recognised in various contexts, including property settlement and spousal maintenance.

Once a de facto relationship is established, individuals have similar rights and responsibilities to those in a marriage, particularly regarding the division of property and financial assets.

Legal Entitlements in De Facto Breakups

Property Division

How Property and Financial Assets Are Assessed and Divided

When a de facto relationship ends, the division of property and financial assets is assessed similarly to a divorce. The Family Court considers the net asset pool, including all assets and liabilities. This encompasses jointly owned property, superannuation, and personal assets acquired before, during, and sometimes after the relationship.

Factors Considered by the Court

The court takes into account various factors to ensure a fair division of property. These include the financial and non-financial contributions made by each party, the future needs of each person (such as age, health and earning capacity), the care and support of any children from the relationship and the overall length of the relationship. Contributions can be direct, such as salary and wages, or indirect, such as homemaking and parenting.

Spousal Maintenance

Eligibility for Spousal Support

Spousal maintenance may be awarded if one party cannot adequately support themselves post-breakup. Eligibility depends largely on the needs of the applicant and the other party’s capacity to pay. Factors considered include age, health, income, property, financial resources, and the standard of living during the relationship.

How Maintenance is Calculated

Maintenance is calculated based on the reasonable needs of the applicant and the payer’s ability to provide support. The court examines the income and financial resources of both parties, their expenses, and any obligations to support children or other dependents. Maintenance can be periodic or as a lump sum, and is designed to help the lower-earning party become financially independent.

Steps to Protect Your Entitlements

Legal Documentation and Agreements

Importance of Binding Financial Agreements

Binding Financial agreements are legal documents that outline how property and financial matters will be handled if the relationship ends. These agreements can provide clarity and protection, helping to prevent disputes and ensure a fair distribution of assets.

How to Prepare Documentation Proving the Existence of a De Facto Relationship

To establish that there was a de facto relationship, it is crucial to have documentation such as joint bank account statements, utility bills with both names, lease agreements and any other evidence of a shared life. This documentation is vital in legal proceedings to prove the relationship’s legitimacy and duration.

Seeking Legal Advice

How a Lawyer Can Assist in Protecting Your Rights

A lawyer experienced in family law can help you understand your rights and entitlements, assist in gathering necessary documentation and represent you in any negotiations or court proceedings. Legal advice is invaluable in ensuring that you receive a fair outcome and that your interests are protected.

Tips for Choosing the Right Legal Advisor for Your Needs

When choosing a legal advisor to understand your de facto relationship and the break-up entitlements you may be eligible for, consider their experience in family law, particularly with de facto relationship matters. Look for someone with a good track record, strong communication skills, and a client-focused approach. Looking through testimonials can also be helpful in making your decision.

Know Your Entitlements – Get Quality Legal Advice

Understanding your de facto relationship break-up entitlements is essential for protecting your rights and securing a fair outcome. Seeking quality legal advice is the best way to navigate the complexities of property division and spousal maintenance, ensuring that you are well-prepared and supported throughout the process.

Our team here is always happy to help, so if you need assistance, book a free consultation with one of our experts at Genuine Legal WA for advice and representation.