In the Greensborough office of the Tonkin Legal Group we see many family law clients. While many of our clients are married, we often see clients who have been in a de facto relationship or from a same-sex de facto relationship. 

Myths about de facto relationships 

There seems to be general misconceptions about time limits, and other matters that relate to de facto relationships.

In my practice I have heard many clients make various comments about what they have heard in the community about how the law applies to de facto couples. Below are some examples of what I’ve heard from clients over the years:

  1. After a six-month de facto relationship you are entitled to 50% of your de facto partners assets – this is not the case
  2. That you need to make application to the court for a de facto property settlement within six months of separation – this is not case
  3. That de facto relationships that breakdown after 1 March 2009 are dealt with differently to married relationships – this is not case
  4. That a recent change in the law enables de facto parties to share in the assets on a 50-50 basis after a two-year period – that is not the case
  5. Children of de facto couples are treated by the Family Court in a different way to children from married relationships – this is not the case.

What the law says about the break down on de facto relationships

As and from 1 March 2009 (i.e. if your de facto relationship broke down on or after this date) your matter is dealt with under the Family Law Act in either the Federal Circuit Court or the Family court. In effect, de facto couples in this category are treated almost the same as married couples.

The family Law Act states the following:

  1. That you must have been in a de facto relationship for at least two years before you can file an application with the Family court and/or the Federal circuit court for a property settlement. (The exceptions to this rule are if the parties had a child together or if one party made substantial contributions to the relationship, and if the court did not entertain such an application that party would be significantly prejudiced)
  2. If you wish to make application to the Federal circuit court and/or the family court for a de facto property settlement you must do this within two years of separation. If you fail to make application to the court within two years of separating from your de facto partner, you will need to seek special permission to have the matter heard out of time.
  3. The definition of a de facto relationship, includes same-sex couples.

St. John Heath is a Law Institute of Victoria, Accredited Family Law Specialist.
Only a small percentage of lawyers in Victoria hold the title of Accredited Law Specialist in their area of law.