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The Family Law Act defines a de facto relationship as a couple who live in a genuine domestic basis. 

To be living together on a genuine domestic basis a couple must have a mutual intention to share a life together, including their home, finances, and assets and where there is a sexual relationship. 

The general rule is that if you have lived together continuously for at least two years on a genuine domestic basis your relationship is a de facto relationship.

A de facto relationship can also exist between two persons of the same sex. 

When a de facto relationship breaks down parties to the relationship have a right to have financial matters determined in the same way as married couples.

In some circumstances, a relationship can qualify as a de facto relationship even where the couple have not lived together for two years, particularly if the couple share the care of a child or own property together.

A controversial finding recently made by the Family Court found that a de facto partner was entitled to his deceased partner’s superannuation death benefit even though it was bequeathed to the de facto partner’s mother and the couple had only been living together for four months prior to her death. The couple had been engaged and the superannuation fund had determined that the surviving partner was her de facto partner and therefore her “dependent”. The decision is being appealed by the deceased’s mother on the basis that the relationship did not qualify as a de facto relationship under the family law criteria of what constitutes a de facto relationship.

While the decision by the superannuation fund is dealt with under different legislation, it is apparent that if you are considering living with your partner or have been for some time that you are aware of the circumstances where your relationship may meet the criteria of a de facto relationship. If you have a clear understanding about your relationship, it will assist you to understand your rights and obligations not only under Family Law legislation, but other state and federal legislation, including estate law. 

If you would like advice about your family law matter, contact one of our family lawyers on 40517575 or email us on info@cairnsfamilylawgroup.com.au