I was asked this question during my family law lecture this week.
In my head, that was something for couples who live together. Something you opted into. That when you moved into together you were given a welcome mat and after two years a sophisticated, suave new title for your relationship, De Facto.
My class is made up of early to mid 20-year-olds, a lot of us still live with our parents. I personally require my mum’s help to book a doctor’s appointment. To us, de facto status was for those serious adulting couples, where you showed your commitment to your love through raising a plant or a cat and even kids together.
However, when the 2009 changes were made to the laws around spousal maintenance and the division of property for people in de facto relationships the definition of de facto was changed.
Under the Commonwealth Law Act, a de facto relationship is when two people are not legally married or related by family and have a relationship as a couple living together. However in applying this law, the Court has found that you could be in a de facto relationship even if you don't share a home together all the time and even if you have not lived together for two years. You can also be in a de facto relationship if you are married to someone else or in a de facto relationship with someone else.
Known as the 'Mistress Law' the application of this definition means the Court will look at the following factors when determining a de facto relationship:
- The duration of the relationship
- The nature and extent of shared living arrangments
- Whether there is a sexual relationship
- Whether is financial dependence or interdependence eg. shared bank accounts or loans
- Shared ownership or use of any property
- If there is a mutual commitment to a shared life (that love fern could be your de facto adopted baby)
- Whether there is any shared care and support for children
- The reputation and public aspects of the relationship (your Facebook relationship status, all those cute couple photos on Instagram together)
This is the part where we started thinking.