Australian law defines the term ‘a de facto relationship’ as a relationship between ‘a man and woman who, although not legally married to each other, live together as husband and wife on a bona fide domestic basis’. That is, a de facto relationship exists when the party and his/her former partner, irrespective of gender, were in a relationship as a couple residing together on a genuine domestic basis. However, Australian law denies a relationship as a de facto relationship if the individuals were lawfully married to one another or if they are related by family.
In order to determine that a relationship is a de facto relationship, it is incumbent on the parties to make an application to the court. The application can be made either to the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court. In practice, such application is usually made when an actual relationship has broken down and the parties are aiming at having financial disputes determined in the same manner as between married couples. In order to apply for a de facto financial order, such application must be filed within two years of the breakdown of the relationship at issue. In order to obtain a favourable de facto relationship order from the court, the applicant must prove before the court existence of the following facts: