Nowadays, you do not necessarily have to be married to enjoy the same benefits as a married couple. However, there are some things that mums must know, especially if they decide not to tie the knot with their partner, and continue to live together. Here are seven things you should know about a de facto relationship.
1. De Facto Relationships Can Lead to Property Settlements When Couples Separate
When you are in a de facto relationship, it does give rights comparable to those of a married couple. If you have been together for at least two years, have a child together, or have made substantial contributions to the relationship, such as acquiring an asset, you may be entitled to a property settlement in the event the relationship breaks down. So, stay-at-home mums could be entitled to a property settlement or maintenance in the case of a separation.
2. The De Facto Law Applies to Relationships That Ended After the 1st of March 2009!
If you were in a de facto relationship and it ended on or after 1 March 2009, then you may be entitled to apply for a property settlement under the Family Law Act1975 (the same law that applies to married couples). If you were in a de facto relationship that ended before 1 March 2009, you may need to apply under different legislation, depending on the state you live in.
3. The Family Law Act Can Be Avoided with a Financial Agreement
Some mums do not want the law to interfere in their relationship, even in the event of a separation. For example, if you are financially successful in your life pre-or during your de facto relationship, and want to be covered in the event of a separation, a financial agreement enables you to 'contract out' of the Family Law Act and may be to your benefit, so there is certainty afforded to you concerning your property settlement without needing it to go before a judge.
4. Disputes Regarding Children Can Be Handled in the Family Court or Federal Circuit Court of Australia
One very important rule you should know is that disputes regarding children, when they cannot be resolved amicably, are handled in the Family Court or the Federal Circuit Court for couples previously in a de facto relationship in the same way as disputes for married couples. The best interests of the children are still the paramount consideration, regardless of whether the parents were married or in a de facto relationship.
5. A Two-Year Application Limitation Period Applies to Financial Orders
Applications for financial settlements under the de facto provisions in the Family Law Act 1975 must be made within two years after separation. An application can be made outside this time limit; however, it is subject to permission of the court and is not guaranteed to be approved. It is important for mums to make sure they pursue their entitlements within the time frame to ensure they get the best deal for themselves and their children.
6. Properly Settlement Should be Formalised With The Assistance of Specialist Family Lawyers
Some couples separate on good terms, only for things to go wrong somewhere down the line. If you and your partner come up with an agreement, it is always better to formalise it rather than have a handshake agreement and hope nothing goes wrong. A property settlement can be formalised with little fuss and without the need to go to court. Doing so through 'Consent Orders' (or a Financial Agreement) has a number of advantages incl. closing the door off on your former partner coming back for more of the assets allocated to you as part of the property settlement, as well as a stamp duty exemption that could possibly save you tens of thousands of dollars where a property is being transferred to you. Such settlement documents need to be carefully drafted by experienced Family Lawyers to ensure important safeguards are put in place for your benefit.
7. Representation Is Key
Even if mums are well-informed about the law and their rights in case of a separation, the right representation is always essential. With a specialised lawyer, mums can make sure they make the right financial arrangements, not only for themselves, but also for their children in case a separation does occur. Before you enter into any property settlement, your lawyer should tell you what the law says, take detailed instructions as to your relationship history and what you want to achieve in your matter, tell you what your entitlements are and strategize with you about your different options and how best to achieve them. They should also be frank with you from the start regarding your legal costs.
There are some minor differences between the law relating to property settlement between de facto couples and married couples, but that does not mean you have fewer rights or entitlements. For more info about de facto relationships and seeking legal advice, go to Taylor & Scott.