De Facto Lawyers Melbourne

De Facto Lawyers Melbourne

Advice for De Facto couples who have separated or are thinking about separating.

At Sage Family Lawyers, we specialise in legal matters relating to de facto relationships.

Over time, changes in the way people structure and acknowledge their relationships have led to changes in the Family Law Act. Since 1 March 2009, de facto couples (including same-sex couples) now have the same entitlements as married couples with respect to property settlement, superannuation splitting and spousal maintenance.

Our Services Include:

  • Advising if you meet the legal requirements to be classified as a de facto relationship
  • Negotiations with the other party and preparation of Binding Financial Agreements
  • Preparing required documents for Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia including parenting orders, affidavits and witness statements
  • Representing you in Court

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    What is a De Facto Relationship?

    Am I in a De Facto Relationship? Answering this question is the first step before making or defending a claim for property settlement or spousal support.

    Under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) a de facto relationship is defined as a relationship between two people (whether of the same or opposite sex) who are not legally married or related by family and who, having regard to all of the circumstances of their relationship, live together on a genuine domestic basis.

    To determine if a couple lives together on a genuine domestic basis, the Court will look at factors such as the duration of the relationship, if the couple lived together, how long they’ve lived together, if they share children, the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life, the degree of financial dependence or interdependence and if a sexual relationship exists, amongst other factors.

    To prove de facto status, generally speaking couples need to have been in a relationship for two years or more. However, there are particular circumstances in which exceptions to this law are made.

    How Can a Family Law Firm Help?

    Identifying that a relationship exists in a marriage is straightforward due to the requirement to register the marriage. In addition to this, the duration of the marriage is easily identifiable from the date of marriage and the date of separation will usually be recorded for the purposes of divorce proceedings.

    On the other hand, de facto relationships are usually not registered, and it can be challenging to prove or disprove that a de facto relationship existed, or how long the relationship went for, when it began or when it ended.

    As a result, disputes following the breakdown of de facto relationships can be legally complex, making it essential to gain legal advice from a specialist de facto lawyer.

    Property settlement time limits apply to de facto relationships, so it’s important to gain timely advice as you may miss the deadline to make a claim for property settlement or maintenance to the Court and risk losing assets you are entitled to.

    If you are thinking of leaving your de facto relationship or have already separated, our de facto lawyers will provide you with expert legal advice for your unique circumstances. We will answer any questions you have and help you to understand your options.

    Even if you think you may be in a de facto relationship and aren’t planning on separating, a Melbourne de facto lawyer can advise you on how to protect assets in de facto relationships.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    I Haven’t Been in a De Facto Relationship for Two Years, Can I Still Make a Claim?

    Yes, a property settlement or spousal maintenance claim could be made to the Court for relationships that ended earlier than two years if:

    1. There is a child of the relationship
    2. The relationship is or was registered
    3. The person applying for the property settlement made substantial contributions and the failure to issue an order would be a serious injustice to the applicant.

    My Ex-Partner and I Always Kept Our Assets Separate Throughout the Relationship - Can They Still Make a Claim?

    Many de facto couples believe their assets are protected because they are not married. In fact, many couples choose to remain in de facto relationships as they believe they can avoid the laws that govern marriages.

    This is not the case in Australia. Once it is established that the requirements of a de facto relationship have been met, the parties are able to rely on provisions in the Family Law Act in the same way that married couples do when a relationship has broken down.

    My De Facto Relationship Ended - What are My Rights?

    De facto relationship property rights are the same for married relationships. However, before a property settlement claim can be made, de facto relationship status must be proven.

    If proven that you are indeed in a de facto relationship, it may be the case that your property pool (including liabilities and assets) needs to be divided.

    Is a Family Lawyer Required To Help Resolve De Facto Relationship Disputes?

    There is no mandatory requirement for separating de facto couples to engage a family lawyer unless they plan on entering into a binding financial agreement. However, employing a lawyer is likely to result in a more positive outcome from your property settlement, spousal maintenance claim and parenting matters.

    Do Property Settlements, Parenting Arrangements & Maintenance Matters Need to Go Through the Court System?

    No, in fact, the Court encourages ex-partners of a de facto relationship to try to come to an amicable agreement outside of the Court. A property settlement lawyer can conduct negotiations on your behalf and help achieve a fair settlement and formalise this via a Binding Financial Agreement or via Consent Orders, both of which are legally binding.

    Both these legal contracts set out how you and your former partner will arrange your financial affairs and rights to property in the instance the relationship breaks down.

    If parties cannot reach an agreement, the matter will need to be decided in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. First, the Court will determine if a de facto relationship existed. If a de facto relationship is found to exist, the parties can then apply to the Court for property settlement or maintenance claims. In this instance, a de facto lawyer will guide you through legal proceedings and represent you in Court.

    What Happens If We Share Children From Our De Facto Relationship?

    If you are separating from your de facto partner and there is a child of the relationship, parenting arrangements and child support will need to be set out. Arrangements about children of separated de facto couples are decided using the same principles as for separated married couples.

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