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For People with Criminal or Related Legal Problems

For People with Criminal or Related Legal Problems

By Stephen Lucas, Principal Director at Kingston Lawyers Pty. Ltd.

In our parents’ day, many young people did not move in together until they got married. These days, most young couples begin their relationships by moving in together before they get married or commit to a longer term relationship. An often quoted expression is, “I want to try before I buy”.

The important question is, “When does the law recognise the existence of a de-facto relationship?”

The simple answer is the law will recognise the existence of de-facto relationship when you have lived with you partner at the same address, in the same household for a minimum period of two (2) years on a genuine domestic basis. In determining what is genuine the Court will also look at whether you have a sexual relationship, the degree of your mutual commitment to a “shared life” and the public reputation you hold out to the world including in such places as social media, where people on such platforms as Facebook will sometimes declare “In a relationship with X”.

The significance of this two year test is demonstrated by the following example:

Richard and Liz decide to move in together on 1 January, 2013. Liz is a very wealthy woman from her previous three divorce settlements but Richard has no money or assets at all, only debts which Liz pays off for him when the relationship begins.

As the relationship progresses Liz continues to pay for everything including their luxury penthouse, their first class holidays to Venice, their new Mercedes cars and their gold jewellery which Richard wears with pride. However, lately Liz starts to notice that Richard is distant and aloof from her and he is also drinking too much. Liz decides to break off the relationship and asks security to remove Richard from their penthouse. Richard yells out as he is being escorted from the premises, “I will take you for everything Liz, you b####!” Liz is worried and calls one of our friendly lawyers who agrees to meet with Liz to advise her. We tell Liz that Richard has not demonstrated the existence of a de-facto relationship and as such he cannot lay claim to her assets at all. We also agree to write to Richard to ask him to please return the gold jewellery owned by Liz which he was wearing when security evicted him.

A few other points to note are as follows: De-facto relationships include same sex couples. They also include people who are married to other people at the relevant time. So for example, if A was married to B but separated from B and instead lived in a two year relationship with Y, A and Y would be regarded as a de-facto couple even if A has not divorced B yet.

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