De facto is a Latin expression meaning “concerning fact.” In law, it often means “in practice of actuality, but not officially established.”
The Department of Human Services defines a de facto relationship as any relationship where two people over the age of 18 who are not married or in a registered relationship are living together as a couple. The relationship is considered de facto from the time you start living together as a couple.
At this point there have not been any cases where the Court has ruled that a de facto relationship existed where the couple had never lived together, however, the Family Court has indicated that the concept of living together is not necessarily based on the proportion of time a couple spends living under the same roof.
In practice, a Court decides if a de facto relationship exists based on a number of factors, including:
- The duration of a relationship
- Whether a sexual relationship existed
- The nature of the couple’s common residence
- The degree of financial dependence or interdependence between the couple
- The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life
- The ownership, use and acquisition of property
- The care and support of children
- The reputation and public aspects of the relationship
If you were in a de facto relationship and have separated from your partner you have a two year time limit from the date your relationship ceased to make a property claim against a former de facto partner. There are circumstances when this could be extended.