Family Law FAQs: Can You Be in a De Facto Relationship and Not Live Together?

Clarity Lawyers Blog De Facto Not Living Together

The realm of family law in Australia often presents nuanced definitions of personal relationships that can have significant legal implications.

A frequently asked question at Clarity Lawyers is whether partners can be considered in a de facto relationship without cohabitation.

De facto relationships often cause confusion, so let’s clear up about de facto not living together.

What is a de facto relationship?

A de facto relationship is most generally characterised by two individuals who have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. However, being ‘together’ does not always necessitate living under the same roof.

The Family Law Act acknowledges the varied nature of relationships, including having a de facto partner that you may not live with on a full-time basis.

Do you have to be living together?

No, living together is only one factor considered by the court when determining if a de facto relationship existed/exists.

The law recognises that a de facto relationship can exist even if you maintain separate residences due to work commitments, family obligations, or personal choice.

What’s vital is the presence of a genuine domestic basis and a commitment to a shared life.

What are the signs of being in a de facto relationship?

Indicators of a de facto relationship include:

  • Mutual commitment
  • Shared finances such as joint bank accounts
  • Property ownership
  • Financial support
  • Recognition of the relationship in public aspects of life.
  • Duration of the relationship
  • Whether a sexual relationship exists.

It’s important to note that not all these elements must be present to establish a de facto relationship; the courts consider a combination of these factors, and the overall circumstances, to determine the existence of a de facto partnership.

Clarity Lawyers Blog De Facto Not Living Together 2

Things to consider when determining your relationship status

When assessing whether a de facto relationship exists, consider all the circumstances of your partnership. Have you made substantial contributions to each other’s welfare? Is there financial dependence or support? Do you have mutual friends and attend events together as a couple? The law examines these aspects to establish de facto status.

Scenario Example:

Consider Lisa and Mark, who have been in a committed relationship for over three years, a period that often marks the threshold for recognition under family law. While Lisa resides in Maitland for her profession, Mark is based in Western Australia due to his business commitments. Despite the physical distance, they have intertwined their lives through shared bank accounts, regular travel to maintain their relationship, and participation in each other’s family events—evidencing a genuine domestic basis for their partnership. They present their relationship publicly as a couple and have made joint decisions on significant financial investments.

Although they have never lived together full-time, their connection embodies many of the hallmarks of a de facto relationship. This non-traditional setup is increasingly common and legally recognised, providing them with grounds for property settlement under the Family Law Act. Their circumstances illustrate that a de facto relationship doesn’t solely hinge on a shared residence but rather on the interdependency and mutual commitment that characterises their partnership.

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How we can help

If you’re in a de facto relationship living separately and contemplating property claims, our skilled team at Clarity Lawyers can guide you through property settlements, spousal maintenance, and financial agreements with a supportive and professional approach. We understand the complexities of family law and provide clear, practical advice to ensure your rights are upheld, no matter where you are.

Our family law services are based in Newcastle and Maitland in New South Wales, however, we can help people all over Australia.

If you’re unsure about your de facto status or require legal advice on how to proceed with family law matters, Clarity Lawyers is your ally. We’re just a call or click away from providing the clarity and guidance you need.

Call us on (02) 4023 5553 or book your 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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