How to Prove a De Facto Relationship: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding the intricacies of a de facto relationship can be challenging, particularly when it comes to legal recognition and rights.

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, we specialise in assisting couples in proving the existence of a de facto relationship, which is crucial for various legal matters such as property settlement and spousal maintenance.

Outside of a marriage, the Court can only make Orders with respect to financial matters if the parties were in a de facto relationship that has broken down and further criteria is satisfied. That is, the first “hurdle” is in satisfying the Court that a de facto relationship existed and has broken down.

In the following article, we will explore the key elements and legal considerations necessary for validating a de facto relationship, offering insights into the documentation and legal strategies that can strengthen your case.

What Constitutes a De Facto Relationship?

A de facto relationship is characterised by two (2) adults living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis, but not married or related by family (being a parent, child, descendant or sibling). The parties to a de facto relationship may be of the same or opposite sex and may be married to someone else or in another de facto relationship.

Ultimately a Court has regard to all the circumstances of the relationship in determining whether a couple live together on a genuine domestic basis. It will assess each relationship on its facts and no single factor is determinative or a de facto relationship existing. The Court will usually look at a number of considerations including the duration of the relationship, the nature and extent of their common residence, whether a sexual relationship exists, the public aspects of the relationship, the degree of financial dependence and interdependence, care and support of children, amongst other matters.  As of 1 March 2009, significant changes were introduced to how de facto relationships are treated legally. De facto couples, whether of the same or opposite sex, are treated the same way as married couples, with the same rights and obligations.

This parity means that should a de facto relationship end, matters such as the division of property and assets, child custody, and other related issues are now heard in the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court.

Read our article on ‘Coupledom – Are You in a De Facto Relationship’.

Proving Your De Facto Relationship

1. Co-habitation

Living together is a primary indicator of a de facto relationship. Evidence can include joint lease agreements, shared bills, or correspondence addressed to both partners at the same address.

Statements from neighbours or friends attesting to your cohabitation can provide substantial support, as can photographs and other forms of evidence showing a shared life at the same residence.

It’s important to demonstrate the consistency and duration of living together, as this significantly strengthens the case for a de facto relationship.

2. Financial Interdependence

Providing evidence of your intertwined finances can also be used as evidence in proving your de facto relationship with your partner.

This includes providing evidence of joint financial endeavours and shared economic responsibilities. Examples of such evidence could be joint bank accounts, where both partners contribute to and draw from the account for shared expenses.

Additionally, demonstrating shared financial responsibilities like joint utility bills, mortgage or rental payments, or credit card statements can further solidify your claim. Mutual investments or property ownership also play a significant role in depicting financial interdependence.

This could encompass investments made together or properties purchased jointly, indicating a level of commitment and shared financial goals within the relationship. The depth of your financial integration provides a clear indication of the seriousness and permanence of your partnership, often making it a crucial aspect to highlight when proving a de facto relationship.

3. Children

Having children together is often seen as one of the strongest indicators of a de facto relationship, although it is not determinative. If you share children, presenting their birth certificates which list both you and your partner as parents can serve as compelling evidence.

Additionally, any legal or official documents that demonstrate shared parenting responsibilities contribute significantly to establishing the nature of your relationship. This can include joint custody agreements, records of shared involvement in the children’s educational and medical decisions, or evidence of shared financial responsibility for the children’s needs.

These documents not only show a biological connection but also reflect a deep level of commitment and shared responsibility in raising your children. Such evidence is invaluable in proving that your relationship has the characteristics of a long-term, committed partnership akin to that of a married couple.

4. Public Perception

The way your relationship is perceived by others plays a significant role in establishing its de facto status. It’s important to demonstrate how you and your partner present yourselves as a couple in public.

Photographic evidence of you both at various events, such as family gatherings, holidays, or social functions, can effectively illustrate your relationship’s public aspect. Additionally, joint invitations to events or functions where you are addressed as a couple further reinforce this perception.

Affidavits or written statements from friends, family members, or colleagues who are familiar with your relationship can provide personal insights into how your relationship is viewed within your community.

These testimonies can be particularly powerful, as they offer an external perspective on the nature of your bond and its recognition in your social circle. Collectively, these pieces of evidence contribute to painting a picture of a committed, publicly acknowledged relationship that mirrors the essence of a de facto partnership.

Seeking Legal Advice for Your De Facto Relationship with Doolan Wagner Lawyers

Proving a de facto relationship is a nuanced process that requires careful consideration and detailed evidence.

At Doolan Wagner Family Lawyers, we understand the importance of this proof and are committed to helping our clients achieve the best possible outcome.

Our expert team is more than equipped to guide you through this process. We’ll provide tailored advice, understanding the unique aspects of your situation and ensuring your rights are protected.

For further information on our de facto relationship legal services, explore our de facto relationship page.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us today to book a consultation.

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