Valentine’s Day Romance?

So, What’s the difference between a ‘Friend with Benefits’ and a ‘Defacto’?

Valentine’s Day this month sparks and renews romance. So, when does that special romance become a defacto relationship? How much fun can one have before things get serious? (legally!).

Pursuant to section 4AA of the Family Law Act, someone is in a domestic relationship or “defacto” if they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. A person can bring a property claim if that relationship lasts for 2 years or a child results! But what does “living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis” mean?

In the recent family law case of Newland & Rankin (2017) the Court found that the parties had a relationship since 2003 but were not in a “de facto relationship” until April 2008. They separated in April 2010.

Between 2003 and 2008 the Court found that the couple enjoyed an intermittent casual sexual relationship and lived together in the respondent’s house for about two months in early 2003. That did not amount to a de facto relationship because until 2008, the parties had no shared finances, acquired no property together and there was no mutual commitment to a shared life.

The parties were good friends, enjoyed each other’s company and provided practical and emotional assistance to each other but the Court found that they were not committed to sharing a life together.

Exactly when a relationship is considered “defacto” depends on all the circumstances and can be very “grey” and open to interpretation. Overall however, a “defacto” is more than just a “friend with benefits”.

Jacqueline Conquest, Principal, Accredited Family Law Specialist