De facto relationships have become common in modern society, with many couples choosing to live together without getting married or registering their relationship formally. However, when such relationships break down, the implications can be complex and legally challenging.

Understanding the legal implications of de facto separation is important for navigating the emotional and financial stress that often accompanies the end of a relationship.

This blog aims to provide complete guidance on the options and obligations related to de facto separation.

By understanding these things, you can make sound decisions and protect your interests.

We will explore what makes a de facto relationship, the legal effects of separation, and the various options available for solving disputes and fulfilling obligations.

What is De Facto Separation?

Definition of De Facto Separation

A de facto relationship, as defined under Australian law, refers to a relationship between two people who live together on a genuine domestic basis but are not legally married or related by family.

This type of relationship can exist between both opposite-sex and same-sex couples. De facto separation occurs when such a relationship ends, leading to the division of shared assets, financial support, and potentially child custody arrangements.

Even with a good understanding of the process, it is best to get a good De Facto Lawyer who is experienced and knows the ins and outs.

Key Characteristics

Living Together: The couple must live together in a genuine domestic relationship. This does not mean they have to live together 24/7, but there must be a significant degree of shared living.

Duration: Generally, the relationship should have lasted for at least two years. However, exceptions exist, such as when there is a child in the relationship or significant contributions have been made by one party.

Not Married or Registered: The couple must not be legally married to each other or in a registered relationship under Australian law.

Examples of De Facto Relationships

●A couple who has lived together for five years, sharing expenses and responsibilities, without getting married.
●A couple living together for a year but with one partner significantly contributing to the purchase of a home.
●Same-sex partners living together and raising a child together.

Legal Implications of De Facto Separation

De Facto Separation and Property Division

When a de facto relationship ends, the division of property can be a contentious issue. The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) governs the division of property for de facto relationships in Australia. The division is not necessarily an equal split but is based on various factors, including:

The Financial Contributions: Each party’s financial contributions to the property and assets, such as income, savings, and property ownership.
Non-Financial Contributions: Contributions such as homemaking and caring for children.
The Welfare of Children: The needs and welfare of any children from the relationship.
Future Needs: Considerations of each party’s future needs, including age, health, and ability to earn an income.

De Facto Separation and Child Custody

Child custody arrangements are a very important component of de facto separation, focusing on the best interests of the child. Factors influencing custody decisions include:

Parental Responsibilities: Each parent’s involvement in the child’s life and their capacity to provide for the child’s needs.
Stability and Continuity: Ensuring the child’s stability, including maintaining their current living environment and schooling.
Child’s Wishes: Depending on the child’s age and maturity, their preferences may be considered.
Safety and Welfare: Any history of family violence or other safety concerns.

De Facto Separation and Financial Support

Financial support may be required post-separation to make sure that both the partners can maintain a reasonable standard of living. Types of financial support include:

Child Support: Both parents are responsible for the financial support of their children, which is typically arranged through the Child Support Agency.
Spousal Maintenance: One party may be required to provide financial support to the other if they cannot meet their own reasonable expenses.

De facto lawyer

Options for De Facto Separation

Mediation and Negotiation

Mediation and negotiation are some of the first steps in resolving disputes in de facto separations. These processes involve:

Process: Involves a neutral third party (mediator) to help the parties reach an agreement. Lawyers can provide guidance and ensure that any agreement is legally sound.
Benefits: Mediation and negotiation can be less adversarial, more cost-effective, and quicker than litigation. They allow both parties to have a say in the outcome and work towards mutually beneficial solutions.


Litigation may be necessary when mediation and negotiation fail to resolve disputes. This process involves:

Process: Involves filing an application in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court, presenting evidence, and allowing the judge to make a fair and final decision.
Benefits: A court can make binding decisions when parties cannot reach an agreement. It ensures a fair and legal resolution based on the evidence presented.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative law is another dispute resolution method where both partners and their lawyers agree to resolve issues without going to court. Key aspects include:

Process: Involves a series of meetings where both partners and their lawyers work with each other to reach a mutual agreement, often with the assistance of other professionals like financial advisors or child specialists.
Benefits: Promotes cooperation and communication, aiming for amicable solutions. It can be less stressful and more private than litigation.

Obligations During De Facto Separation

Financial Obligations

Maintaining financial stability during de facto separation is crucial for both parties involved. This stability ensures that immediate needs are met and that long-term financial goals remain achievable despite the changes in the relationship. Financial obligations can be categorised into shared expenses, spousal support, and child support.

Spousal and Child Support: Ensuring that any agreed-upon or court-ordered support payments are made on time to prevent financial hardship.
Sharing Expenses: Both parties should contribute to shared expenses until a formal agreement is reached.

Emotional Obligations

The emotional well-being of everyone involved, especially children, is of paramount importance during a de facto separation. Managing emotions constructively can facilitate a smoother transition and reduce the impact of the separation.

Support: Emotional support for children to help them adjust to the changes and ensure their well-being.
Communication: Open and respectful communication to reduce conflict and promote cooperation.

Practical Obligations

Co-parenting and effective communication about practical matters are essential for the well-being of children and the smooth functioning of daily life post-separation.

Routine and Stability: Ensuring that children maintain a routine and stability in their lives, which can include schooling, extracurricular activities, and social relationships.
Parenting Plans: Creating a detailed parenting plan outlining custody arrangements, visitation schedules, and decision-making responsibilities.

By fulfilling these financial, emotional, and practical obligations, both parties can help create a stable and supportive environment during the transition period of de facto separation.

Seeking guidance from defacto separation lawyers, can provide tailored advice and support to navigate these obligations effectively.


De facto separation, while often difficult, can be handled more smoothly with an understanding of the legal implications, options available, and obligations required. All this may seem too complicated, but with the help of good de facto relationship lawyers Sydney, you can get through this.

Some of the most important points that you can keep in mind are that the division of property is based on contributions and future needs, not an automatically equally divided split.

In custody decisions, the best interests of the child are given top priority, taking into account the child’s emotional and physical well-being. Both spousal maintenance and child support may be necessary to assure fair outcomes.

Seeking legal advice from experienced de facto relationship lawyers through Minors Family Law can be very beneficial for you. We can provide advice according to your circumstances and support throughout the separation process. Understanding your options and obligations will help protect your interests and result in a smoother transition during this challenging time.