Kate Hennessey WA PropSettlements

De-facto and common law couples

De-facto couples as they are known in Australia, or common law couples as they are known in various overseas countries, generally refers to both heterosexual and same-sex couples who live together but have not married.

Under Australian law, if two people have a relationship together as a couple and they are living together on a genuine domestic basis, they are generally considered to be in a de-facto relationship. The definition of what constitutes a de facto/common law relationship is fairly broad, so in some circumstances, it can also include couples who both live in different countries for the majority of the year.

Where should you get divorced?

If you are an Australian expat and are splitting from your de facto partner, you may well need to look at where you bring your property settlement, depending on how the country in which you are living classifies your relationship. For example if your country of residence does not legally recognise your particular relationship.

In Australia, separating de-facto couples have substantially the same rights (and liabilities) as those of married couples with regard to property settlements. This includes claims for spousal maintenance and superannuation splits.

Click here to read more about whether Australia is the right legal forum for you. 

Property settlement claims

Under Australian law, you have a two year time limit from the date of separation to make a property claim against your former de facto partner. There are some exceptions to this time limit, for example, where a couple has a child together, where one party has made substantial contributions to the relationship (both financial or non-financial), or where the couple had registered their relationship. 

If you are in any way unsure of the potential impact you relationship may have on your financial situation, we recommend that you seek appropriate legal advice.

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