Debunking De Facto Relationship Myths

Some people dream of their big wedding day. For many others, a wedding is a formality, a party that can be celebrated any day or an expense they would prefer to redirect into a mortgage or travel. As such, the outdated 2011/2012 Australian Bureau of Statistics data and projections shows an increasing number of people choosing to be in child-less relationships and more single parent households. Founder of DivorceAnswered, Rachael Scharrer, shares the most common misconceptions surrounding de facto relationships.

de-factoimage via pinterest

As a divorcee, I firmly believe that one divorce is enough for me and think that a future de facto relationship may be more my style. However, as more discussions arise as to why people are in de facto relationships and what they believe they are or are not entitled to because of this title, it is interesting to know how many people do not know or understand what a de facto relationship actually is and the associated liabilities.

There is a rise of people coming together in a relationship to defy the challenges faced in a marriage. Similarly, there is an increasing number of people in relationships that do not realise they are actually in marriage-like relationships and, subsequently, qualify for the laws of marriage. The type and style of your relationship doesn’t change the level of commitment and loyalty to your partner. Thus, a piece of paper doesn’t future-proof your relationship.

As your relationship becomes closer and more serious, the likelihood that you are almost, if not already, in a de facto relationship becomes more certain. The moment that friends, family or your partner believe that you are in a serious, marriage-like, sexual relationship, then you qualify for all of the rules, regulations and force of family law.

If you thought that declaring the end of a de facto relationship was easy, then think again! Proving the end of the relationship can be harder than the end of a legalised marriage. Often affidavits from people who know you and your ex-partner declaring the finality of the union is required.

You may think “I can just walk away at the end of the relationship!” Well, that isn’t quite right either. The end of a de facto relationship involves a financial split, parenting agreement and a potentially messy end to the relationship.

All too often, people think that if they buy the washing machine and their partner buys the couch, then these assets are respectively theirs at the end if the relationship. However, it can get so much more complicated than that. If one of the couple has paid a larger share of the outgoings or rent, or one person created a more lavish lifestyle for their partner, then the more affluent spouse may have to share a greater portion of the asset pool with their lower income earning ex-partner.

Living in a property purchased by one half also presents challenges when splitting up. You and your partner may have had verbal agreements about how you will split you home, contents and cash, however in the absence of a Binding Financial agreement, the split is up for negotiation.

Claims on the de facto financials and assets must occur within two years of the relationship ending, which is relatively similar to legally married couples.

What is most interesting, is that the laws of a legalised marriage apply to de facto relationships; de facto relationship status and rules apply to same sex couples. Therefore, same sex de facto relationships are considered ‘marriages’ in the Family Law.

Some people apply the ‘once bitten, twice shy’ mantra to relationships. They have been married once and enter into de facto relationships to save the assumed hassles of a messy ‘divorce,’ if and when that may occur. People enter de facto relationships all the time thinking that the relationship won’t be as messy or complicated as a marriage. To these people, I would strongly recommend getting a Binding Financial Agreement created by a professional family lawyer. This legally binding document outlines the asset splits and financial obligations of each person when the relationship ends. If this document is kept current and timely, they are harder to contest in court, which means a faster, more straight-forward break up.

Regardless of the relationship that you are in, the shape it takes and how or when it may end, always keep an open heart, open mind and savour every moment together. Every relationship that comes into our lives is there to teach us a lesson.

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