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What are you entitled to when a de facto relationship breaks down?

Leigh-Anne works full time in communications but in her spare time is a freelance writer who covers just about every subject under the sun from celebrity babies to Zumba classes. A self-confessed chocoholic, extremely uncoordinated, real...

Know your de facto rights

From SheKnows Australia
Moving in together might seem like a great way to halve living expenses while studying at uni or as a sanity-saving solution to sharing with grotty random strangers, but did you know that after two years of living together you are considered a de facto couple?

Couple break up

It only takes two years of being shacked up under the same roof living as a couple, whether you're the same sex or not, to be considered de facto. No biggie, right? Well, not unless your partner is receiving benefits from Centrelink or the relationship goes belly up. Then, girl, it's a whole new ball game. If the relationship goes to custard, it's no longer a case of snatching back your CDs and moving back in with your parents. In the eyes of the law, as of March 1, 2009, you and your partner are as good as married (unless you live in South Australia, North Territory or Western Australia).

Important note: You do not have to be living under the same roof to register a de facto relationship — Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages, NSW Government.

NSW, the ACT, Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania de facto couples have the right to register the relationship with the state or territory. The certificate can be used as proof of the existence and duration of the relationship should the relationship break up or in the event your partner dies.

There is no registration system in the Northern Territory, Western Australia or South Australia, although South Australian same sex couples can register their relationship through a domestic partnership agreement.

As of March 1, 2009, de facto couples have the right to apply to the family courts for orders in relation to division of property and child maintenance. Should the de facto relationship break down you may be responsible to provide financial assistance to your former partner if they are unable to afford reasonable living expenses from their own source of income.

Get him to agree to see a relationship counsellor >>

Your rights as a de facto:

Financial assistance

Important lesson: Don't shack up with a benefit-bludging layabout or you could find yourself supporting their lifestyle long after the relationship has ended. The way to avoid this is for both of you to seek independent legal advice before moving in together and agree to a Binding Financial Agreement, similar to a pre-nup.

If you have left your job in order to raise children you've had with your partner or are unable to fend for yourself financially as a result of the relationship breaking up, you may be legally entitled to financial help and child maintenance from your ex.

Your family home

If you have purchased a property together, but for various reasons your name doesn't appear on the title, and you can prove you have contributed to mortgage payments, rates or bills, you can claim for a share of that property. Contributions can include arrangements where your ex partner's income went towards the mortgage while yours was used for day-to-day expenses like food, electricity and internet. You may also claim for renovations, gardening, decorating and maintenance. Generally the longer the relationship lasted, the bigger the share you are likely to be allowed to claim, even if the property was purchased before the relationship began.

Read about family lawyer Natalie Fielding's advice on what to do when calling it quits >>

Superannuation

Important lesson: If you own your own home, It may be advisable to get legal assistance before inviting your partner to move in.

Who would have thought being in a de facto partnership could have any implications on your super fund? Superannuation held by you and your partner can be split by agreement or by court order.

The new laws only apply to couples that broke up after March 1, 2009 or after July 1, 2010, if you have a geographical connection to South Australia.

More on relationship breakdowns

Best breakup pamper treatments
Should you stay in touch with an ex
Why fighting is killing your relationship

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