De Facto Relationships
At least three different possible regimes govern the financial aspects of separation of people who are not married but who are in a marriage-like relationship. Working out which applies to your relationship is important. For many de facto relationships in NSW, issues such as property settlement and spouse maintenance are treated the same as if you were married. Recent reforms by most Australian states have empowered the Federal Government to amend the Family Law Act to cover de facto relationships. The amendments also cover same‑sex de facto relationships. To fall within the new regime you must have separated after 1 March 2009. People who don’t fall within the new regime will need to have regard to either the Property (Relationships) Act of New South Wales or the Law of Equity.
There are two striking features of the old regime:
• ‘Future needs’ factors such as income differences created by unequal sharing of the care of children are not taken into account under the Property (Relationships) Act.
• Under the former law administered by the State Courts, significant weight is given to direct financial contributions – often overshadowing the weight given to non-financial contributions like that of homemaker or parent.
Making sure you are in the correct regime is important, as the result will be different. Both the old law and the new law allow you to enter into pre-nuptial style agreements that contract out of the Court system in the event your relationship breaks down.