De facto Separation

How does separation work for de facto relationships?

People can feel a bit lost as to how to finalise arrangements with their ex-partner when they first separate following a de facto relationship.

In Australia, a person is in a de facto relationship if they are not legally married to a person and they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis. Whether you are in a de facto relationship will depend on things such as the duration of the relationship, the way you structure your finances (together or separate) and the care and support for any children.

Generally speaking, in order to apply for orders relating to the division of property, your de facto relationship has to have been for at least 2 years but there are exceptions to this. Where the parties have children or one party made a substantial contribution to property which would not be recognised without orders then it may still be possible to apply for orders for a division of property to the relationship.

Once you have established that you were in a de facto relationship then the family law rules in relation to parenting orders or financial orders do not differ greatly from those for married couples.

The Federal Circuit Court and Family Court of Australia separates matters into:

  • Applications for Parenting Orders; and
  • Applications for Financial or Property Orders.

Within these areas there are more discreet offshoots such as spousal/de facto maintenance, enforcement, location and recovery orders or orders relating to establishing parentage of a child. If you have separated from your de facto partner contact us for an initial discussion about how we can help you finalise any financial or parenting aspects of the relationship.


You have 2 years following the end of a de facto relationship to commence financial/property proceedings in the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. If you have not applied for financial/property proceedings within 2 years of the end of the relationship then you will have to ask the court for leave/permission to file your application which will only be granted in certain circumstances.

Separated, but living under one roof

It is important to note the date that you separated from your partner because many people separate but remain living under one roof until they sort out living and financial arrangements. In this situation, the time that you are separated but still living together will count towards the 12-month timeline that the Court requires you to be separated for.

You can find the brochure from the Family Court about being separated under one roof HERE.

For more information from the Court about separation see the Family Court page HERE.

For more information on how we can help you in relation to your family law enquiry please see our pages here:

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