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12 Aug 2019

HHG’s Dr Steve Cohen, Managing Associate and Rachel Pocock, Lawyer from the Family Law team provide some clarity around separation from a de facto relationship. 


Family lawyer WA

So, what does it mean in the realm of Family Law if you decide to shack up with your partner? Whilst you may not think that living with a partner has any legal consequences, this is often not the case?


A de-facto partnership carries with it the same legal rights and remedies as a marriage. This means that if you are a de-facto couple you have the same right to seek property settlement as a married couple does.

In Western Australia, the main exception to this is superannuation entitlements are typically dealt with differently. Currently, only couples who were married or those who are in a State or Territory other than Western Australia can seek a superannuation splitting Order in the Family Court.

Am I in a de-facto relationship?

The law for de-facto couples in Western Australia falls under the Family Court Act 1997 (WA) and the Interpretation Act 1984 (WA)

When deciding whether you are in a de-facto relationship, the Family Court considers the circumstances of the relationship and whether you are living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. In determining whether you are a de-facto couple, the Family Court will look at these factors (but they are not essential):

  1. The length of the relationship;
  2. The nature and extent of the common residence;
  3. Whether 2 people have resided together;
  4. Whether there is or has been a sexual relationship;
  5. The degree of financial dependence or interdependence;
  6. The ownership, use and acquisition of property;
  7. The degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  8. The care and support of children; and
  9. The public aspects of the relationship.
What if you purchase a home together, only to realise you cannot live with that person in 2 months?

In Western Australia, to seek relief from the Family Court a couple who have lived in a marriage-like relationship for a period of two years and have resided in Western Australia for a third of their entire relationship may be enough to invoke the jurisdiction.

If you have not been in a de-facto relationship for a minimum of two years, the Family Court may not have jurisdiction to assist.

However, if you have made substantial contributions to the acquisition, conservation, or improvement of any property, to the welfare of the family, or have a child together, you may be able to apply to seek permission from the Family Court to assist in resolving your property dispute.

What if we break up?

If your de-facto relationship comes to an end, you have two years to apply for a property settlement after your separation. If you seek a property settlement after this time, you will have to seek the Court’s permission.

Get in touch

If you are separating from your de-facto partner, one of our experienced family lawyers at HHG Legal Group can give you advice on your rights and entitlements with respect to making proper arrangements for the children of the relationship or negotiating a property settlement.  Call 1800 609 945 or send us an online query.



*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

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