If you and your partner decide to live together without a former marriage license or you’re married, but you don’t live together, you’ll want to make yourself familiar with de facto relationships and asset protection.
Couples with questions about their non-traditional relationships can find answers to their questions from family lawyers.
A de facto relationship includes couples who live together but aren’t legally married. De facto relationships also include couples living together domestically. Other issues to consider in a de facto relationship include current marriages to people you aren’t living with, or if either of you is in another de facto relationship. You might also be in this type of relationship if you are committed to a partner, but you don’t live together consistently.
According to the 1975 Family Law Act, a de facto relationship involves a couple living together domestically. The sexual orientation of the couple does not matter when establishing a de facto relationship. When a judge determines a couple meets the de facto qualifications, they are as good as being married.
If your de facto relationship ends, your assets could be divided just like they would be in a divorce. You can protect your assets with a financial agreement. These work like pre-nuptial agreements, where you and your partner decide what to do with your shared assets and personal property if your relationship ends.
Without a financial agreement, you could lose your assets if your former partner claims maintenance if you separate. In some situations, couples create financial agreements to protect their assets while they are separating. These formal agreements usually express spousal terms and division of property so parties cannot make claims later.
If you’ve been in a de facto relationship, you have two years to apply for claims for spousal maintenance or property settlements. Before judges award claims, you have to prove you were in a de facto relationship for at least two years.
Judges will look for proof that you were in a relationship. You can show proof by sharing information about children you had together, financial support you provided for each other, or registered relationship status in any state or territory. If you registered your relationship in another locale, the judge will immediately recognize your relationship’s legal status.
Before judges decide if you’ve been in a legal relationship and you are entitled to support, judges also look at other behaviors. Judges need to know the duration of the relationship and how long you shared a residence. You’ll need to prove if the relationship is sexual, and how you were connected financially. Judges will also want to see proof of mutually-owned property with deeds, loans, and leases.
Whether or not you receive or pay maintenance will also depend on whether you share children and a commitment to care for them and each other. You may need to bring in witnesses that can share anecdotes about the public aspects of your relationship before you can claim maintenance.