The existence of a de facto relationship may give rights to each party in relation to an adjustment of property.

We all think we know what a de facto relationship is, but how do we determine whether or not such a relationship exits?

It is easy to determine when a marriage exists as there is a Marriage Certificate issued. In the absence of a certificate there needs to be a close examination of the relationship to determine whether or not a de facto relationship exists.

Bruno and Brenda had an “on again, off again” relationship for a period of three years. During that three year period they lived together at Bruno’s property for a good part of the time. Brenda had her own room where she kept all of her belongings. However, also shared a room. Bruno and Brenda kept their own bank accounts but did operate a joint account for daily expenses.

Brenda was the mother of Stephanie who also lived in the house with Bruno and Brenda from time to time.

When Bruno and Brenda lived together they attended community functions together and were well known. Bruno was a bit of a character and Brenda was known as a saint for putting up with Bruno.

After three years the relationship broke down completely. Brenda made a claim against Bruno’s property on the basis that she had been his de facto partner for three years. She said that she had made significant financial and other contributions and there should be an adjustment of property in her favour to reflect the contributions that she had made.

Bruno, on the other hand, denied there had been a de facto relationship. He maintained there had only been a casual sexual relationship. He relied on the fact that finances were kept separate except for the joint account and Brenda always had her own room. Bruno said that Brenda was purely a boarder in his residence and, in fact, he could show that she paid board which were her contributions to the joint account.

After close examination it was established that a de facto relationship existed in accordance with the current legislation.

Bruno and Brenda had supported one another and had presented themselves to the public as a couple. Brenda had not really been a boarder. She provided far greater support, commitment and comfort to Bruno than a boarder would have and he to her.

Now the fact that a de facto relationship existed did not automatically mean that Brenda would be successful in her application to the Court for a property settlement. However, it certainly did mean that there was a foundation for her to make such an application.

If you are worried about whether or not you have entered into a de facto relationship in the eyes of the Law and the possible consequences, you should seek some advice from an experienced family lawyer.