Family Law FAQs: Understanding the Difference Between Marriage and De Facto Relationships in Australia

Clarity Lawyers Blog Understanding The Difference Between Marriage And De Facto Relationships In Australia

Understanding the legal landscape of personal relationships in Australia can be challenging, with various types of partnerships recognised under family law.

A common question we are asked here at Clarity Lawyers is what the distinction between marriage and de facto relationships is?

Each has unique characteristics and legal implications, and it’s crucial to comprehend these differences, whether you’re entering a new relationship or navigating a change in your current situation.

What is a marriage?

Marriage is a union voluntarily entered into between two people who meet the legal age requirement and are not closely related by family. In Australia, marriage requires a formal ceremony, a marriage certificate, and is legally recognised across the country regardless of the state or territory. It signifies mutual commitment and can include opposite-sex or same-sex couples, celebrating the spirit of marriage equality.

What is a de facto relationship?

A de facto relationship is where two adults live together on a genuine domestic basis but are not legally married. The family law act recognises de facto relationships, which can be between same-sex or opposite-sex couples. To be considered de facto partners, the relationship must show a degree of permanence and shared life similar to that of married spouses.

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De facto vs marriage: What are the main differences between a marriage and a de facto relationship?

The main differences lie in the formal recognition and commencement of the relationship.

While married couples have a marriage certificate as significant proof of their union, de facto couples are recognised by their living arrangements and shared responsibilities.

In the eyes of the family law system, both relationships afford rights concerning property settlement, spousal maintenance, and child support, yet they may differ in how these matters are approached legally.

Whether you’re married or in a de facto relationship, understanding your options is important from a legal point of view, and seeking advice from a family law professional is one of the simplest ways to do so.

How to protect your rights in a de facto relationship?

To protect your rights as a de facto partner, it’s important to substantiate the relationship with concrete evidence, like joint financial ventures or considerable financial contributions to mutual property.

Take the scenario of Emma and Jordan, a de facto couple in Sydney who decided to buy a house together. They kept meticulous records of their substantial financial contributions and living arrangements. When they needed to address property settlement after their relationship concluded, these records were crucial in demonstrating the genuine domestic basis of their partnership.

Like married individuals, de facto partners may access similar rights to property settlements and can pursue spousal maintenance proceedings under the Family Law Act.

Our firm can help de facto couples navigate these complex legal processes with the same rigour and dedication we apply to all family law matters.

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How we can help

Here at Clarity Lawyers, we are well-versed in both marriage and de facto relationship laws. We guide our clients through financial settlements, property settlement, parenting arrangements, and spousal maintenance, ensuring that your rights are protected. Whether you are a de facto couple or a married spouse, our team is committed to resolving your family law matters with expertise and empathy.

We’re based in Newcastle and Maitland in New South Wales but we help people all over Australia in navigating the complexities of family law matters. If you’re facing the challenges of a relationship ending or need advice on family law matters, Clarity Lawyers is here to provide professional support and clear guidance.

Call us on (02) 4023 5553 or book a no obligation consultation online here.

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Samantha Miller

Samantha has been a lawyer since 2001 having followed in the steps of her father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather. No one can say she didn’t know what she was getting into!

Initially admitted in 2001 as a solicitor in NSW and Australia, Samantha moved to the UK where she was admitted as a solicitor in England and Wales in 2002. After working in several different areas of the law in large London firms, she determined that family law was her calling and hasn’t looked back.


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