In a recent decision the Court has determined that the laws that apply to couples for division of Relationship Property, do not apply to three-way relationships.

A married couple met a third person that they entered into a long term (15-year) relationship with. The married couple moved into a property owned by the new partner. 

The trio lived together in a relationship with many of the features of a normal relationship. They shared the same bed, made joint purchases, ran businesses from the property, and all contributed to the maintenance and upkeep of the property. The married couple also held a private ceremony for the new partner in which they were given identical rings.

After 15 years, all three partners to the relationship separated. The two partners that had been married made a claim against the third for an interest in the property they had all been living in. 

The two people making the claim argued that the law should apply to them as if they were each in a separate de facto relationship with the third partner.

The Judge explained that under the Act two people must have been living together as a couple in a qualifying relationship.

Although the relationship displayed many, if not all, of the signs of a de facto relationship, the Judge held the law applied to people living as a couple and did not make any provision for those living in a three-way relationship in respect of property division.

The Judge said that it was desirable for the law to cover this situation, but that it was up to Parliament to pass a law to deal with it.


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Shaun Cousins
Associate Lawyer

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