A couple recently separated after being in a de facto relationship for one year. They previously dated for a year, back in 2013. The female partner applied to the Family Court for a maintenance order, and was granted over $1,800 per week to pay for her rent and other expenses.

The liable partner appealed to the High Court.  That Court held that the Family Court had made no error in deciding to make the interim maintenance order, even though the relationship was one of less than three years.

The High Court noted that the Family Court has a broad discretion to make maintenance orders, and had correctly undertaken a factual enquiry and properly concluded that the payment would not subject the liable partner to any financial hardship.

It is important to remember that you can be liable for maintenance payments even if you have been in a de facto relationship for less than three years.

The Court will take into account when determining whether you have a de facto relationship:

  • the nature and extent of common residence (living at the one residence is just one factor – it is possible to be in a de facto relationship even though you’re living at different addresses);
  • whether or not a sexual relationship exists;
  • the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support;
  • the ownership, use, and acquisition of property;
  • the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • the care and support of children;
  • the performance of household duties; and
  • the reputation and public aspects of your relationship.