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You’ve been in a stable de facto relationship for a while now. In fact, your partner has moved into your property. If something sours and you split up, the home is still yours, right?

In fact when it comes to property settlements, de facto couples have the same rights and liabilities as married couples, so before you take your relationship to ‘let’s move in together’, consider the following:

What is a de facto relationship?

A de facto relationship is defined in Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975. The law requires that you and your partner, who may be of the same or opposite sex, have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. Your relationship is not a de facto relationship if you were legally married to one another or if you are related by family.

Property settlement

In the unfortunate event of a separation, de facto couples have a time limit of two years from the date their relationship ending to make a property claim against a former de facto partner.

Since 1 March 2009, parties to an eligible de facto relationship which has broken down may apply to the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court to have financial matters determined in the same way as married couples. After this two-year time period has lapsed you will need the Court’s permission to apply.

Before the Court can determine your financial dispute, you must satisfy a number of criteria.

Safeguards for de facto couples

De facto couples who want financial security can enter into a Binding Financial Agreement at any time during their relationship. Binding Financial Agreements are similar to pre-nuptial agreements, in that a couple can use them to set out how their property and other assets would be divided if they were to part ways.

Couples can also use a Binding Financial Agreement to deal with issues such as spousal maintenance e.g. exempting each other from making a claim for maintenance, or specifying maintenance terms in the event of a separation.

For guidance surrounding your own de facto relationship and settling any financial or property dispute, seek professional legal advice as your first step.

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