Under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), de facto couples are treated in exactly the same way as married couples. This means that for the purposes of children’s proceedings and property matters, de facto couples have the same rights as married couples.

However, determining whether two people are in a ‘de facto relationship’ can be difficult, particularly when those people do not live together on a permanent basis.

The recent Family Court case of Cuan & Kostelac makes it clear that when determining whether a de facto relationship exists, all of the evidence and the intricacies of a relationship must be considered.

In that case, Ms Cuan was a ‘fly in fly out’ worker who only lived with Mr Kostelac for six week block periods before returning to live with her children in a separate town for two weeks. As a result, Ms Cuan argued that she was never in a de facto relationship with Mr Kostelac.

The Family Court decided that Ms Cuan was previously involved in a de facto relationship with Mr Kostelac for the following reasons:-

  • Both parties shared a home together on and off for a period of approximately three years;
  • The parties had a sexual relationship during that time;
  • Both parties combined their finances; and
  • Other people regarded them as being a ‘couple’.

This case clarifies that living together on a permanent basis is not a prerequisite for two people to be found to be in a de facto relationship. Instead, a couple’s living arrangements is simply one of the factors that the Family Court must take into account.

If you are unsure whether you are in a de facto relationship or would like advice in relation to your family law matter, please contact the Family Law Team at Selvaggio Lawyers on (02) 9899 9677.