Everything you need to know when ending a de facto relationship
If not already married, two people who have lived together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis automatically become classified as a de facto relationship according to Australian law.
Although no formal process (such as divorce) is necessary to end a de facto relationship, you may need to divide property, assets and debts. We find that many of our clients are surprised by what they are entitled to, or what they are required to share. These could include:
- Houses and property (both the family home and investments)
- Cash in bank accounts
- Cars and other vehicles
- Household items, such as furniture and appliances
- Personal items, such as jewellery
- Business and property investments
- Debt from credit cards or loans
Regardless of whether the property and assets are owned together or separately, both parties may be entitled to a slice of it if one of the following criteria are satisfied:
- The de facto relationship lasted two years or more
- The couple share a child/children
- One party made substantial financial or non-financial contributions and a serious injustice would result if the order to split property was not made
- The relationship is registered with the state of Victoria
In many cases, the division of property, assets and debts can be finalised with a financial agreement or a consent order formalised by the Court. This is a legally binding contract that dictates how both parties of a separated de facto relationship have agreed to divide their assets and finances. Although this document isn’t legally necessary to end a relationship, it provides financial protection for both parties and helps to avoid any future disagreements. This process must be completed within two years of the separation. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to attend Court, however you may need to should an amicable agreement not be made between both parties.
Where children are involved, a child custody arrangement will also need to be made. You can find out more about child custody matters here.
Financial agreements must have a lawyer involved, otherwise there is no legal effect to the document and either party may be undermined moving forward.
At Waters Lawyers, we understand that going through a de facto separation is a highly emotional and stressful time. We act with honesty, empathy and integrity at every step of the journey to support you and help make this experience a little easier. If you have any questions regarding the process, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team on (03) 5996 1600 or book in a free consultation via our website.
By Simon Varszeghy