How Property Can Be Divided after a De Facto Relationship Breaks down

29 May 2018
 Categories: Law, Blog


Nobody ever expects a relationship to break down when they first enter into it, but sadly it's all too common in the world today. Sometimes, these breakdowns happen after many years of being together, and this can create several layers of complexity due to the "intermingling" of assets between the parties. If you're in this unfortunate position and are now looking to try and segregate everything, what do you need to know about the legal requirements?

Understanding De Facto

Some people seem to think that a relationship is only binding in legal terms if it has been consummated in the form of a marriage or similar arrangement. However, the law does not think this way, and it's quite possible that your relationship would be considered to be "de facto." Consequently, one or both of the parties could build a formal claim against the assets of the other due to the fact that they were involved in this way.

How Courts View This

A court will always look at the facts, of course, which will include the existence of a personal or sexual relationship between the pair, how long they were together and how much one or the other depends on their former partner for financial support. If this type of arrangement was already in place prior to the separation, then the court may well seek to extend its effect going forward. Most importantly, if there are any children as a result of the relationship, this will have a significant bearing on how assets are distributed.

Many of these implications are commonplace when it comes to individuals who were legally married, but in recent years courts have been applying them at the same level and with the same force for de facto couples as well. This makes it even more important for people to have their eyes wide open when they enter into a relationship and to be as careful as possible when mingling.

If the court decides that both parties have a claim to property, then it doesn't necessarily matter whether it was jointly owned before or whether it was 100% the property of a specific individual. Nevertheless, it is less likely that the court will make a punitive ruling if the de facto relationship was still relatively fresh, unless it had already produced a child. Remember that if one of the partners is simply incapable of looking after him or herself financially going forward without the other, then a court will undoubtedly intervene.

A Better Solution

In hindsight, it's always a good idea to approach this type of relationship very cautiously, and it's best to come up with a legally binding agreement between the parties before anything moves forward. In this way, the court could be presented with a document that will help them determine how everything should be handled following this irretrievable breakdown.

Don't Go It Alone

This can be a difficult maze to navigate by yourself, and it's always a good idea to get competent legal counsel in your corner. Contact solicitors in your area for additional advice.