Table of Contents
The Family Court of Australia has jurisdiction under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (“the Act”) to determine matters relating to property as between parties who have not been married, where the parties have lived in a de facto relationship for a period of no less than two years and the relationship finally ended after 1 March 2009, the date on which the particular provisions of the Act commenced.
The touchstone or foundational fact establishing jurisdiction is whether the parties were “a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis” at the relevant time. That question can be decided by reference to the matters to which s 4AA(2) of the Act refers, none of which are determinative of the question.
De facto relationships
Meaning of de facto relationship
(1) A person is in a de facto relationship with another person if:
(a) the persons are not legally married to each other; and
(b) the persons are not related by family; and
(c) having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.
(d) has effect subject to subsection (5).
Working out if persons have a relationship as a couple
(2) Those circumstances may include any or all of the following:
(a) the duration of the relationship;
(b) the nature and extent of their common residence;
(c) whether a sexual relationship exists;
(d) the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between them;
(e) the ownership, use and acquisition of their property;
(f) the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
(h) the care and support of children;
(i) the reputation and public aspects of the relationship
(3) No particular finding in relation to any circumstance is to be regarded as necessary in deciding whether the persons have a de facto relationship.
(4) A court determining whether a de facto relationship exists is entitled to have regard to such matters and to attach such weight to any matter, as may seem appropriate to the court in the circumstances of the case.
(5) For the purposes of this Act:
(a) a de facto relationship can exist between 2 persons of different sexes and between 2 persons of the same sex; and
(b) a de facto relationship can exist even if one of the persons is legally married to someone else or in another de facto relationship.
In coming to the view that a couple had a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis the court is to have regard to all of the circumstances of their relationship. Those circumstances may include those specified in ss 4AA(2).
Sub-section 4AA(3) highlights that no particular finding in relation to any circumstance is to be regarded as necessary in deciding whether the subject persons have a de facto relationship.
A court determining whether a de facto relationship exists is entitled to have regard to such matters and to attach such weight to any matter, as may seem appropriate to the court in the circumstances of the case.
Thus, whether or not a de facto relationship, as defined, exists will depend upon an assessment of all of the circumstances of the relationship, each to be given the weight the court thinks appropriate.
Financial arrangements cannot be taken in isolation and considered of particular importance in determining the nature of relationship. Their materiality, like each of the other elements of the relationship, stems from the impact they have as part of an overall situation. Each element of a relationship draws its colour and its significance from the other elements, some of which may point at one direction and some in the other.
What must be looked at is the composite picture. Any attempt to isolate individual factors and to attribute to them relative degrees of materiality or importance involves a denial of common experience and will almost inevitably be productive of error. The endless scope for differences in human attitudes and activities means that there will be an almost infinite variety of combinations of circumstances which may fall for consideration. In any particular case, it will be a question of fact and degree, a jury question, whether a relationship between two unrelated persons of the opposite sex meets the statutory test.
It is important to consider all of the relevant facts and circumstances as a whole in determining the nature and characteristics of the relationship being examined.
The touchstone for the determination of whether a de facto relationship exists is the finding that the parties to it are a “couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.
If you need help, please contact the Brisbane Family lawyers team at James Noble Law today for a FREE, no-obligation 20-minute consultation. To schedule an appointment with one of our Qualified and experienced Family lawyers Brisbane.
Find Brisbane family lawyers on Google Maps near you.