De facto relationships: rights and responsibilities

Although de facto couples are a big part of modern society, many of their legal rights and responsibilities remain unknown to most people. This lack of understanding means that people may be missing out on benefits or disregarding their obligations, making such knowledge pertinent across the board. If you or someone you know are living in a de facto relationship, keep these facts in mind.

Which couples are classified as de facto?

A lot of the grey area surrounding de facto couples is the uncertainty about what constitutes one. In Australia, de facto couples are typically those that have been together for at least two years, have a child together, have made a substantial contribution to the property or finances of one other or have had their relationship registered under State or Territory law. You may still be considered to be in a de facto relationship if one of you is legally married to someone else or you do not live together on a full time basis.

What are their property rights?

Gone are the days of what’s mine is mine and yours is yours with unmarried couples. If separated de facto couples are unable to reach an agreement about dividing their assets, they can make an application to the Family Court under the Family Law Act.

When deciding how your property will be divided, the Family Court will consider what each of you owned before the relationship, the net value of your current assets, the contributions made by each person over the course of the relationship and your future needs including the care of children, your earning capacities and access to financial resources.

 What are their rights and responsibilities with children? 

Much of the uncertainty surrounding de facto children are the rights and responsibilities of same sex couples. Under family law legislation, most children born to or adopted by same sex couples are recognised as children of both parents. During separation legal proceedings, decisions about where the child will live and who they will spend time with are based on the best interests of the child.

Child support laws also apply to de facto couples. Since 2009, if your name appears on the child’s birth certificate, if there is a court finding or if you have signed a statutory agreement that you are a parent, you will be seen as a parent with child support liability.

If you would like to discuss the rights and responsibilities of de facto couples further, give us a call today on (02) 4322 2235.

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