The general rule is that once you have been in a relationship (de facto, married or civil union) for three years or more, in the event you separate all of your ‘relationship property’ is to be divided equally. The length of any de facto relationship and marriage are combined.

But how do you know if you are in a de facto relationship?

You will be considered to be in a de facto relationship with someone if you are both 18 years or older, if you are living together as a couple, and you are not married or in a civil union.

When determining if you are living together as a couple, the Court will take into account the following factors:

  1. The duration of the relationship;
  2. Whether or not you are living together in the same house;
  3. Whether or not you have a sexual relationship;
  4. The degree of financial dependence or interdependence you have, and any arrangements for financial support between you;
  5. Whether or not you own, use, or have acquired property together;
  6. The degree of mutual commitment you have to a shared life together;
  7. Whether or not you have children;
  8. The performance of household duties; and
  9. Whether or not you present yourselves as a couple to friends, family and the public.

If you are unsure whether you are in a de facto relationship, we suggest discussing the above factors with your partner/ ex-partner to see if you can reach an agreement as to when your relationship changed from one of boyfriend/girlfriend to a de facto relationship.

The turning point for most couples is when they decide to move in together, although this is not determinative.

The date you entered into a de facto relationship is important for determining when your relationship becomes/became one that qualifies under the Act, and therefore what property is relationship property and what property is separate property.

If you are in a de facto relationship, especially coming up on the three year mark, you may wish to consider entering into a Contracting Out Agreement. Such an agreement allows you to prevent assets from becoming relationship property when they otherwise would. For instance the family home is always classified as relationship property regardless of how it came into the relationship, and the value of the family home will in most cases be divided equally on separation.