De Facto Lawyers

Arbitrator rules in favour of Opal Legal’s client in battle over length of De Facto Relationship

An Arbitrator has ruled that a de facto relationship between the parties in a family law case existed for a period of 25 years.

Opal Legal had commenced proceedings in the Family Court of Australia on behalf of an applicant who alleged that he had been in a de facto relationship with the respondent from 1990 to 2016.

The respondent strenuously defended the application, claiming that a de facto relationship existed only between 1992 and 1994; and that subsequently the applicant lived with her as “tenant,” but had never paid her any rent.

Our legal team undertook the mammoth task of collecting evidence from witnesses and from documents covering a period of 26 years, as well as issuing subpoenas.

The documents gathered included bank records, immigration forms, historical statutory declarations, photos, videos, travel records, letters, text messages, utilities bills, telephone records, social media posts, motor vehicle records and toll bills.

The entire arbitration from conducted by audio-visual link from our Liverpool office.

Following a five-day contested arbitration, in which 12 witnesses were cross-examined, the Arbitrator accepted almost entirely the version of the de facto relationship given by Opal Legal’s client.


What is a de facto relationship?

Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 provides that a person is in a de facto relationship with another person (of the same or opposite sex) if:

  • the persons are not legally married to each other; and
  • the persons are not related by family; and
  • having regard to all the circumstances of their relationship, they have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis.

How does the court work out if a relationship exists as a couple?

In determining whether the persons have a relationship as a couple, the court may look at some or all of the factors found at s4AA (2) of the Family Law Act. The factors are:

  • the duration of the relationship;
  • the nature and extent of their common residence;
  • whether a sexual relationship exists;
  • the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between them;
  • the ownership, use, and acquisition of their property;
  • the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • whether the relationship is or was registered under a prescribed law of a State or Territory as a prescribed kind of relationship;
  • the care and support of children;
  • the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.


  • no particular finding in relation to any circumstanceis necessary to determine whether a de facto relationship exists
  • the court can have regard to such matters and place weight on such matters as may seem appropriate in each case
  • a de facto relationship can exist even if one person is legally married to someone else or is in another de facto relationship

If you are looking for advice or representation following a breakup, feel free to contact our highly experienced de facto relationship lawyers for a FREE CASE EVALUATION or REQUEST A QUOTE now.

Your first consultation will be free.