Unlike marriages, de facto relationships are not limited in terms of the combination of the sexes of the parties and a person may be legally married or in more than one de facto relationship at a time.
Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 explains that two people are in a de facto relationship if they are:
- Not legally married; and
- Not related by family; and
- Have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.
The process of determining whether the relationship between two people is “as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis” involves a consideration of the following:
- The duration of the relationship;
- The nature and extent of their common residence;
- Whether a sexual relationship exists;
- The degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between them;
- The ownership, use and acquisition of their property;
- The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
- Whether the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory as a prescribed kind of relationship;
- The care and support of children;
- The reputation and public aspects of the relationship. 
None of the above factors are exclusively indicative of the existence of a de facto relationship. The intricacies of a relationship are assessed and weight is apportioned to each factor on a discretionary basis. A determination of the existence of a de facto relationship is made looking at the relationship in its entirety.
If the Court finds that there was a de facto relationship that has broken down, the parties may then be entitled to seek a property settlement and/or spousal maintenance orders. The parties have two years from the date they separated to apply to the Court for a property settlement. If neither party applies to the Court within two years, it then becomes more difficult for the parties to seek the Court’s intervention with respect to a property settlement and/or spousal maintenance application.
A court will have the power to make property settlement and/or spousal maintenance orders when the parties were living in or had lived in the State or Territory that they are applying to the Court in and one of the following applies:
- The relationship was registered;
- The relationship was for a period (or total periods) of at least 2 years;
- There is a child of the relationship; or
- There would be a serious injustice to one partner if orders were not made due to that partner’s significant financial, non-financial, homemaker or parent contributions.
For further queries please contact WGC Lawyers.
 Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s4AA(1)(c).
 Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) s4AA(2).