How to navigate de facto property settlement

The end of a long-term relationship can be an emotional and traumatic time, but there are often legal and practical formalities to take into account.

Even if the relationship with your partner ended on amicable terms, it‘s important that both parties receive a fair share of the assets you shared, including property. De facto property settlement can be a tricky field to navigate, especially if one party contributed more financially to the assets.

What is a de facto relationship?


If you have lived with your partner in a genuine domestic arrangement for more than two years, you are considered to be a de facto couple under family law. This means you live together as a couple but are not married. This is true for both same-sex and mixed-sex relationships.

What is a de facto property settlement?


A de facto property settlement involves dividing the assets between each party after the relationship has ended. It is recommended that you apply for a property settlement as soon as you can – de facto couples have two years from the date of separation to apply to the court for a property settlement.

Factors in a de facto property settlement


The de facto relationship must meet a few requirements before a property settlement can be considered:

  • The relationship lasted for at least two years and/or
  • You have made a substantial contribution to the relationship – this can be financial, a homemaking contribution or a parenting contribution and/or
  • The relationship was registered under a state or territory law and/or
  • You have a child with your de facto partner.

It’s widely believed that the relationship needs to have lasted for at least two years, but the court will consider periods shorter than this.

Negotiating a de facto property settlement


Negotiations will have to be made before an agreement is met. Once the assets and debts of each party have been identified, the respective contributions need to be assessed. These can include your income, any childcare carried out by either party, inheritance or any other lump sum received during the relationship, as well as any assets brought to the relationship.

When there is joint ownership of a home or joint investment in a property, the parties will have to negotiate how to divide these assets. Common options include one party buying the other out or selling the property/s and dividing the proceeds, depending on any agreed upon ratios or contributions.

Each party should make full disclosure of their financial position and receive legal advice. The best possible scenario is to have a mediated discussion regarding the situation. A court setting should be avoided whenever possible.

If you cannot reach an agreement between yourselves and a family lawyer, you can apply to a court of financial orders.

De facto separation help


At East Coast Law Family Law, we’ve helped countless individuals negotiate the difficult but important waters of de facto property settlement.

Get in touch for more information on our de facto property settlement services by calling 1300 735 947.


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