De-Facto Relationships

A de-facto relationship is the existence of a relationship with another person, to whom you are not legally married, but are living with on a genuine domestic basis.

In Western Australia, the Family Court of Western Australia determines property settlement proceedings, child related proceedings and child support proceedings arising from De-Facto relationships.

To determine whether a de-facto relationship exists, the Court considers factors such as:

  • the length of the relationship between the parties.
  • the nature and extent of their common residence.
  • the degree of financial dependence or interdependence.
  • the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life.
  • the ownership use and purchase of property by them.
  • whether they have a child of the relationship, or support any children.

There are common misconceptions about what constitutes a de-facto relationship, one of which is that a couple must have been living together for two or more years. The specific factors which may be relevant to determine whether a de-facto relationship exists for one couple, may not be relevant when the question is considered for another.

An application for property settlement between de-facto couples must be brought within 2 years from the date of separation. If separation occurred more than 2 years ago, leave must be sought from the Family Court to commence proceedings out of time, and the Family Court has discretion to grant, or refuse, leave depending on a number of factors which must be addressed.

In relation to child related matters, parties who have separated from a de-facto relationship are able to access the Family Court of Western Australia for children’s matters, regardless of the date of separation.