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de facto relationship property claim

Were you in a de facto relationship?

A de facto relationship is defined in Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975. The law requires that you and your former partner, who may be of the same or opposite sex, had a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. However, your relationship is not a de facto relationship if you were legally married to one another or if you are related by family.

But what counts as de facto? Does going to all the same events together, does attending family gatherings, does having a hild?

In Crick & Bennett [2018] FamCAFC 68 (13 April 2018) the Full Court (Ainslie-Wallace, Aldridge & Watts JJ) dismissed the De Facto Husband (DF Husband)’s appeal against Tonkin J’s declaration that a de facto relationship existed while he lived in the De Facto Wife (DF Wife)’s home from 2001 to 2014. He argued that despite having a child in 2003 they had lived apart under one roof since 2004, never acquiring any joint property or operating any joint account.

The DF Wife gave evidence that the parties went out to events where they ‘presented as a couple’ but the DF Husband denied this. The DF Husband accepted that the parties attended many family, social and school events with their child but denied that when they were at these events the parties ‘presented as a couple’. The Full Court indicated that the DF Husband “did not set out any facts or circumstances that could illuminate his assertion and it is impossible to attribute any probative weight to that evidence.”

In this case, the Full Court placed highest importance to the determination of whether the parties had ‘a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis’ [s4AA(1)(c)) of the Act]. The concept of whether the parties are a ‘couple’ is part of the test. The primary Judge in this case found that between the alleged period the parties attended many social and family events including family Christmases, birthdays, events held at the parties home and at their relatives’ home as well as the child’s school functions. The Full Court continued to state “This was significant evidence of the public aspects of the . . . relationship and supported a finding that there was a de facto relationship. If the appellant wished to contend that the parties’ conduct at those events led to a different conclusion then it was incumbent on him to adduce evidence to support that proposition”.

Other than establishing that you were ‘living together on a genuine domestic basis’ you’re your former partner, you must satisfy the Court of all of the following:

  1. you meet one of the following four gateway criteria

    1. That the period for the de facto relationship is at least 2 years

    2. That there is a child in the de facto relationship

    3. That the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory

    4. When assessing property or custodial claims in cases of a breakdown of a relationship, it is recognised that significant contributions were being made by one party and the failure to issue an order would result in a serious injustice

  2. you have a geographical connection to a participating jurisdiction

  3. your relationship broke down after 1 March 2009 (or after 1 July 2010 if you have a geographical connection to South Australia only); although you may be able to apply to the courts if your relationship broke down prior to the date applicable to your state.

In the event of a breakdown of a de facto relationship, you must apply for de facto financial orders within two years of the breakdown of your relationship. After this time you need the Court's permission to apply.

If you are uncertain as to whether your relationship constitutes a de facto relationship, or if you are in one that has unfortunately broken down and you would like to discuss further what your entitlements are, please do not hesitate to contact one of our approachable and experienced family lawyers. The number to dial is 03 9614 7111, or email us out of hours on melbourne@nevettford.com.au.

The Nuts and Bolts of a Property Claim in a De Facto Relationship under the Family Law Act

De Facto Relationship

A De Facto relationship arises when two people, who are in a relationship, are not married or related by family, and having regard to all the circumstances of the relationship, are a couple who live together on genuine domestic basis. Circumstances of the relationship that the Court will consider in determining whether a De Facto relationship exists or not include the duration of the relationship, living arrangements, whether there was a sexual relationship, financial arrangements, property owned jointly or individually, any registration of the relationship under State or Territory law, any children and public representation of the relationship.

Grounds for Property Claims in a De Facto Relationship

If a De Facto relationship breaks down, the Family Law Act provides that a Court can make orders in relation to property of the relationship only if: -

  • The relationship has lasted for a minimum of 2 years; or

  • If there is a child of the relationship; or

  • A party has made a substantial contribution; or

  • The relationship was registered under a State/Territory law.

As a result, the De Facto relationship that last for less than 2 years, a property claim can only be made if there is a child of the relationship, the relationship is registered or if the concerned party has made a substantial contribution.

Substantial Contribution

Substantial contributions are contributions which are not ‘illusory’ and are ‘considerable or large’ having real worth or value. Contributions that would be considered by the Court as being substantial contributions include, but are not limited to, the following: -

  • Financial contributions made for acquisition, conservation or improvement of any property of parties

  •  Non-financial contributions made for the acquisition, conservation or improvement of any property of parties

  • Contributions made to the welfare of the relationship and/or children of the relationship including homemaker contributions.

When determining whether a contribution is a substantial contribution, the Court may also take into account other considerations, such as: -

  • Effect of any proposed order on earning capacity of any party

  • Matters such as age, health, income, care or control of child, any commitments, standard of living, extent of contributions to financial resources of the relationship

  • Any financial agreement/arrangement between the parties

  • Child support

There is a further requirement for claims based on substantial contributions. If a party makes a substantial contribution and in the absence of an order that party would suffer a serious injustice, only then can a claim for property be made by that party. The Court requires this injustice to be more than slight and a mere injustice will not suffice.

If you have been in a de facto relationship that has unfortunately broken down and you would like to discuss further what your entitlements are, please do not hesitate to contact one of our approachable family lawyers. The number to dial is 03 9614 7111, or email us out of hours on melbourne@nevettford.com.au.