Not all of my clients in my Perth family law firm are married. Quite often they have been living together and are seeking advice on whether they should go through a legal separation, or just break up and go their separate ways. The first question we need to establish is whether or not they are in fact a defacto couple.
Most people think that if two people live together as a couple then they are in a defacto relationship. I have heard many people say that if you live together for more than six months the other party gets half your assets. There are lots of myths and half truths about defacto relationships.
For people living in Perth and Western Australia in many cases the laws are the same as for married couples. But because you don't have a marriage certificate to say when you became a defacto couple, you need to make sure you get legal advice from an experienced Family Lawyer to find out if your separation will be treated the same as if you were married by the Family Court of Western Australia.
The law says that the Family Court of Western Australia can make property settlement orders for defacto couples if you lived together for at least two years or one party made a substantial contribution or you have a child together under 18 and not getting a property settlement would result in serious injustice. You must also show that one or both of you are in Western Australia on the day of making the application and you both lived in Western Australia for at least a third of the relationship.
You also have to either agree that it was a defacto relationship, or if you don't agree you have to satisfy the Court that your relationship was the same as a marriage. This can be difficult to prove and there are many different elements to a defacto relationship. There are a lot of people, particularly young people, who live together as a couple, but would not consider themselves a defacto couple.
There have been several cases when someone thought they were in a defacto relationship, but when they separated the other party said they were only boyfriend/girlfriend. After a hearing before the Family Court of Western Australia in Perth the Court then said they weren't defacto and therefore the person applying wasn't entitled to a property settlement.
As you can see, it is probably a lot more complicated than you think. An initial one-off consultation, with no obligation for further engagement with Leach Legal will give you information and advice to make the right decision. And, if you are in a defacto relationship it worth you getting your head around the legal divorce and separation process but more on that in another blog!