The simple guide to de facto relationships and property

Defacto relationships and property

Living with your partner in a de facto relationship can have huge implications for property ownership and what happens to your home if you split.

In days gone by, couples didn’t live together until they had tied the knot. But times have obviously changed in recent decades, and living together in a de facto relationship is now the norm for many Australian couples.

However, even though you and your partner may not be married, your relationship status has some very important consequences in the eyes of the law. Read on to find out what those consequences are and how they affect you, your finances and the ownership of your property.

Does the law recognise de facto relationships?

New laws concerning the division of property for people in de facto relationships were introduced to Australia in 2009. Under these new laws, separating de facto couples are now treated the same as married couples in terms of the division of property and the payment of spouse maintenance.

To be classified as being in a de facto relationship, two people who are not married or related by family must be living together on a “genuine domestic basis”. The two people can be of opposite sexes or of the same sex, and the circumstances of their relationship will be used to determine whether or not they are in a de facto relationship. These circumstances include:

  • The length of the relationship
  • The nature and extent of your common residence
  • Whether a sexual relationship exists
  • The ownership of your property
  • The care and support of children
  • The degree of financial dependence or interdependence between both people
  • The reputation and public aspects of your relationship

These new laws are important because people in de facto relationships have the same financial responsibilities to their partners as married couples do.

Compare your home loan options

Rates last updated January 21st, 2019
Loan purpose
Offset account
Loan type
Repayment type
Your filter criteria do not match any product
Name Product Interest Rate (p.a.) Comp Rate^ (p.a.) Application Fee Ongoing Fees Max LVR Monthly Payment Short Description
$0 p.a.
Get a low interest rate loan with no ongoing fees. Plus you can make extra repayments and free redraw online. Available with just a 10% deposit.
$0 p.a.
Enjoy flexible repayments, a redraw facility and the ability to split your loan. Plus, pay no application or ongoing fees.
$0 p.a.
NSW and ACT customers only. Get a special discount for a limited time when you open an IMB Transaction Account.
$0 p.a.
Get a competitive rate, save on fees and access a 100% offset account plus redraw facility. $900 cashback offer.
$0 p.a.
A simple mortgage with a competitive interest rate and no application or monthly fees. Borrow up to $2000000 from a convenient online lender.

Compare up to 4 providers

Aussie Home Loans Logo

Enter your details below to receive an obligation-free quote from an Aussie home loans expert today

By submitting this form, you agree to the Finder Privacy and Cookies Policy and Terms of Use

Applications are subject to approval. Conditions, fees and charges apply. Please note that you need to be an Australian citizen or permanent resident to apply.

Credit services for Aussie Select, Aussie IQ and Aussie Optimizer products are provided by AHL Investments Pty Ltd ACN 105 265 861 Australian Credit Licence 246786 ("Aussie"), and its appointed credit representatives. Credit for Aussie Select products is provided by Residential Mortgage Group Pty Ltd ACN 152 378 133 Australian Credit Licence 414133 (“RMG”). RMG is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 234945. Credit for Aussie Optimizer products is provided by Perpetual Limited ABN 86 000 431 827 (Lender). Credit for Aussie IQ is provided by Macquarie Bank Limited ABN 46 008 583 542 AFSL and Australian Credit Licence 237502. Home loans issued by the Lender are serviced by Macquarie Securitisation Limited ABN 16 003 297 336, Australian Credit Licence 237863 (MSL).

Aussie is a trade mark of AHL Investments Pty Ltd. Aussie is a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia ABN 48 123 123 124. ©2018 AHL Investments Pty Ltd ABN 27 105 265 861 Australian Credit Licence 246786.

By submitting this form, you agree to the Privacy and Cookies Policy, Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and the Aussie privacy policy.

Aussie Home Loans is both a lender and a mortgage broker, and offers a range of services.

  • FREE Suburb and Property Report with every appointment.
  • Access 3,000+ loans from over 20 lenders.
  • Get expert help with your loan application, including paperwork and eligibility.
  • Over 1000 brokers who are able to help you in your local area.

Aussie Home Loans Lender Logos

The Adviser’s number 1 placed mortgage broker 5 years running (2013-2017)

What happens to property when a de facto relationship breaks down?

When de facto couples separate, they can obtain property settlements on the same principles that apply to separating married couples under the Family Law Act 1975. Before doing this, however, you and your former partner should try to reach an agreement about all financial and property issues. There are family dispute resolution systems in place to help you and your partner reach an agreement without going to court, and these avenues should be explored before going any further.

You have a time limit of two years from the date the relationship ends to make a property claim against a former de facto partner with the Family Court, and you will need to prove that you and your partner lived together for two or more years. However, in certain circumstances it is still possible to make a claim if you’ve lived together for less than two years, for example if you and your former partner have a child together, or if one party has made substantial personal or financial contributions to the relationship.

De facto relationships couple sitting on couch

The court will consider all of the property involved in your relationship, which not only means your house but also blocks of land, businesses and motor vehicles. Property will be considered regardless of whose name it is in or when it was first obtained.

Next, the court will consider the contribution each person has made to the relationship. This contribution could be financial, such as wages or savings, or it could concern non-financial duties such as doing housework or caring for children.

The future needs of each person, for example their capacity to work and whether or not they will have to look after any children, will also be taken into account, as the court aims to divide property in a way that is fair and equitable to both parties.

Binding financial agreements

If you and your partner do not want to be covered by the Commonwealth laws for the division of property for people in de facto relationships, you have the option of reaching your own agreement about how property would be distributed and other assets separated if the relationship fell apart. This is known as a binding financial agreement, and it can only be entered into once both people in the relationship have obtained independent legal advice.

You can establish a binding financial agreement at any time in your relationship, even when you are in the process of separating. This can provide financial security for you and your partner and ensure that you both get a fair deal.

Protecting yourself and your property

Even if you and your partner have decided not to walk down the aisle because of all the complications and financial entanglements marriage brings, living together in a de facto relationship can have huge implications for property ownership in the eyes of the law. Even if one or both of you is legally married to someone else, or even if the two of you don’t live together full-time, you could be classified as being in a de facto relationship and your partner could have a claim over your property if the relationship turns sour.

With this in mind, there are several things you can do to protect yourself in case your relationship breaks down, including:

  • Doing your research. Make sure you’re aware of all the legal implications of living together in a de facto relationship. Not only should you familiarise yourself with laws regarding the division of property, but you should also be aware of how living together could affect you in other ways, for example your ability to access Centrelink benefits.
  • Reaching an agreement. Before asking your partner to move in with you, consider whether it could be worthwhile reaching an agreement about the division of financial responsibilities and the ownership of the property. Will your partner be paying rent or contributing to the mortgage? If so, what effect will this have on their stake in the ownership of the property?
  • Getting legal advice. The best course of action for both parties is to seek legal advice. Even if you’re certain your relationship will stand the test of time and you and your partner will be together forever, get some professional advice tailored to your circumstances. This will allow you to work out what steps you need to take to ensure that your property and assets are protected if your relationship ever breaks down.

Image: Shutterstock

Tim Falk

A writer with a passion for the written word, Tim loves helping Australians compare and find the right products. When he's not chained to a computer, Tim can usually be found exploring the great outdoors.

Was this content helpful to you? No  Yes

Related Posts

Home Loan Offers

Important Information*
UBank UHomeLoan Variable Rate - Discount offer for Owner Occupiers, P&I Borrowing over $200,000

Take advantage of a low-fee mortgage with a special interest rate of just 3.59% p.a. and a 3.59% p.a. comparison rate.

HSBC Home Value Loan - (Owner Occupier P&I)

Get a low interest rate loan with no ongoing fees. Plus you can make extra repayments and free redraw online. Available with just a 10% deposit. Essentials - Variable (Owner Occupier, P&I)

A competitive interest rate home loan with interest only options. Interest rate 3.64% p.a.
comp rate of 3.66% p.a.

Tic:Toc Live in Loan Variable Rate - Principal & Interest

Get a very low interest rate and avoid big fees. Apply online for full approval in under 30 minutes and add a 100% offset account for $10 a month.

Ask an Expert

You are about to post a question on

  • Do not enter personal information (eg. surname, phone number, bank details) as your question will be made public
  • is a financial comparison and information service, not a bank or product provider
  • We cannot provide you with personal advice or recommendations
  • Your answer might already be waiting – check previous questions below to see if yours has already been asked

Finder only provides general advice and factual information, so consider your own circumstances, or seek advice before you decide to act on our content. By submitting a question, you're accepting our Terms of Use, Disclaimer & Privacy Policy and Privacy & Cookies Policy.

8 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    MarleneJanuary 7, 2019

    Can the court make me sell my home I have owned since 21 to pay my defacto out, who lived here for 7 years?

    • finder Customer Care
      JohnJanuary 8, 2019Staff

      Hi Marlene,

      Thank you for reaching out to finder.

      Depending on your ability to pay the settlement advised by the court, they may advise you to sell your assets to make up for the payment. This may be further clarified with the court that made the decision. Hope this helps!


  2. Default Gravatar
    jamesDecember 3, 2018

    Hi, I am separating from a de facto partner of 7 years. We bought a home together. She put in $316k and from day one I borrowed the mortgage, paid all utilities insurance for home, renovations upgrades, 2 new cars one at $45k the other at $61k, she contributed a total of $14k in trade ins and cash. She is now asking for the amount she put in 7 years ago and not 50/50. Is this right? I earn more than her but have also helped her with her children being 12 y/o & 14 y/o when we first moved in together. I have supported a lavish lifestyle, shopping food her up keep. I also have personal debts apart from the home loan. What do you advise?

    • finder Customer Care
      JeniDecember 10, 2018Staff

      Hi James,

      Thank you for getting in touch with finder.

      Sorry about your current situation.

      Please note that finder is a general information and comparison website. We can offer you general advice.

      In your case, it is best to seek professional help from an expert like a family lawyer. You may also seek legal advice from one of the experts from Family Relationships Online HERE.

      I hope this helps.

      Please feel free to reach out to us if you have any other enquiries.

      Thank you and have a wonderful day!


  3. Default Gravatar
    ChrisNovember 30, 2018

    Is my de facto partner of five years entitled to half of my superannuation?

    • finder Customer Care
      JhezelynDecember 5, 2018Staff

      Hello Chris,

      Thank you for your comment.

      Yes, under superannuation splitting laws, it’s possible you’ll get some of your partner’s super or that she’ll get some of yours.

      The superannuation splitting laws enable couples to split superannuation payments, payable under a superannuation interest one of them holds, in family law property settlements on relationship breakdown. Couples can also make a superannuation agreement before or during their marriage or de facto relationship about how any superannuation will be split on marriage or relationship breakdown. A superannuation agreement is like a more general financial agreement in which
      couples can agree about how property other than superannuation is to be divided on relationship breakdown.

      It may be a good idea to seek legal advice or speak to your financial adviser as they could assist you in determining the long-term outcomes of different settlement options.

      Should you wish to have real-time answers to your questions, try our chat box on the lower right corner of our page.


  4. Default Gravatar
    MelJuly 23, 2017

    I have a friend that entered into a relationship and had his own property & the other had her property . She then moved in with him they have now split after 2yrs . She also owned a property and rented her property out over this time. she did not contribute to the mortgage payments but did so by house hold expenses. Now they have split & going through court for settlement is he entitled to claim on her property & income she has earned ? Your advise would be appreciated

    • Default Gravatar
      ArnoldAugust 3, 2017

      Hi Mel,

      Thanks for your inquiry.

      Usually, he won’t be able to make a claim because the property is in her name. But what I would advise is talk to a lawyer to discuss your options and find out if he is entitled to a claim.

      Hope this information helped.


Ask a question
Go to site