Jurisdiction over de facto relationships

Since the introduction of the Western Australian legislation governing de facto relationships, family lawyers in Perth have assisted de facto partners in property matters, mediation and litigation. A de facto relationship is where two individuals live together in a marriage-like relationship. There are no specific requirements for a relationship to be deemed ‘de facto’, although there are many relevant factors taken into account such as the duration of the relationship, degree of financial dependence, and caring for children.

However, in order for the Family Court Act 1997 to apply to de facto relationships, certain requirements must be satisfied. This is important as this Act allows de facto partners to seek applications. Firstly, at least one party must reside in Western Australia on the day that the application is made. Secondly, either:

  • both parties must have resided in Western Australia for at least a third of the duration of their de facto relationship, or
  • the applicant must have made substantial contributions in Western Australia towards the acquisition, conservation or improvement of property of the relationship or one of the parties, or towards the welfare of the family of the de facto relationship, including as a homemaker or parent

For an application to be made in relation to the de facto relationship, the court must then also be satisfied of at least one of the following:

  • has been a de facto relationship between the parties for at least 2 years, and the court can consider if there was any break in the continuation of the relationship, and if so, the length of the break and the extent of the breakdown in the relationship, and any other circumstance the court considers relevant. Alternatively,
  • there is a child of the relationship (younger than 18 years) and if failure to make the order would result in a serious injustice to the partner who is responsible for or is caring for the child. Or the final possibility is
  • if the de facto partner that is seeking the application has made substantial contributions towards property or the welfare of the de facto relationship family and failing to make an order would result in serious injustice to that partner.

Specifically relating to property interests, when a de facto relationship has ended, a partner may apply for an order relating to property, but an application for such an order must be made within 2 years after the relationship has ended. However, the court has discretion to extend this period if it is satisfied that hardship would be caused otherwise. If one of the de facto partners has a spouse, notification must be given to that spouse of the application.

Family lawyers in Perth can help assist with the court application process, as well as mediations between the parties. As this article shows, there are many factors to consider and certain requirements must be satisfied before an application is made. A family lawyer in Perth can make this process easier and simpler for the individual.

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