De facto relationships
A de facto relationship is a relationship between two people who are not married, but live together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. De facto relationships can be between two people of the same sex or opposite sex.
You can be in a de facto relationship with someone even if you are still legally married to, or in another de facto relationship with someone else.
You cannot be a de facto relationship with someone you are related to.
This information will help you understand why it is important to know if a relationship was a ‘de facto relationship’ and how the court decides this.
Why is it important to know if we were in a de facto relationship?
If you were in a de facto relationship and have separated, you can ask the Family Court to make a decision about how the property from your relationship should be divided and for maintenance (if you are unable to agree about these things outside of court).
This is because if you were in a de facto relationship, the Family Court Act 1997 (WA) applies to your relationship. If you were not a de facto relationship, the Act does not apply.
The Family Court can make a property settlement if:
- the de facto relationship was for at least two years, or
- the de facto relationship was shorter than two years, but you and your ex-partner have a child under 18 years together and if the court failed to make property orders it would result in a serious injustice to the person caring for the child, or
- the de facto relationship was shorter than two years, but the person asking for a property settlement has made significant financial contributions and if the court did not make property orders this would result in a serious injustice.
How does the Family Court decide if we were in a de facto relationship?
The Family Court will look at a number of factors to work out whether you and your ex-partner were in a de facto relationship, including:
- the length of the relationship
- whether you lived together and for how long
- whether there was a sexual relationship
- how you organised your finances
- whether you owned property together
- whether you cared for or supported children
- how you acted about your relationship around other people including in public, and
- how much each of you were committed to a shared life.
Are there time limits for applying to the Family Court for a property settlement?
If you were in a de facto relationship, there are time limits for applying to the Family Court for a property settlement. You need to make an application to the Family Court within 2 years of separation. After this time, you need to seek permission from the court to be able to ask for a property settlement and leave is not always granted.
Can I make an application for a property settlement in the Family Court of WA?
You can make an application for a property settlement in the Family Court of WA, if:
- either you or your ex-partner are living in WA on the day the application for a property settlement is made to the Family Court of WA, and
- you and your ex-partner lived in Western Australia for at least a third of your relationship or you have made substantial financial contributions in Western Australia.
Reviewed: 23 June 2022