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De Facto Relationship FAQs

November 5, 2023

What is a de facto relationship in Australia?

Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 provides that two people are considered to be in a de facto relationship if they are (a) not legally married; (b) not family relatives; and (c) for all intents and purposes, living together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis. There are several circumstances which must be be considered when determining if a de facto relationship exists, such as the duration of the relationship, degree of mutual commitment to a shared life, the care of children, among other criteria. A full list of circumstances is outlined at subsection (2) of section 4AA.

Is a de facto relationship the same as marriage?

Though a de facto relationship status is not achieved by way of any formal ceremony as is with a marriage, couples in a de facto relationship are largely afforded the same legal rights and protections, and in many circumstances, the same obligations as a married couple. However significant differences in requirements can be seen between a separating de facto couple versus a divorcing married couple. For a party to seek spousal maintenance orders or a property settlement out of a de facto relationship, specific criteria may be required to be proved (per subsection (2), linked above) in order to satisfy the Court that a relationship indeed existed, whereas a former husband or wife need only have been married, regardless of the circumstances of the relationship. With regard to applicable time limits, a de facto couple must file any Court proceedings within two years of the relationship ending. To the contrary, after a marriage breakdown a person has one year from the date of divorce finalisation to bring an application to the Court, even though they may have been separated for a significant period already.

How long do we need to live together to be a de facto relationship in Australia?

A minimum of twenty-four months is the duration you should be living with your partner to be considered as a de facto under the Family Law Act. Exceptions to this rule are made if there are children or substantial contributions to joint property.

Do we need to register our de facto relationship?

Registering a de facto relationship through the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages is not a requirement for a partnership to be lawfully recognised. Your de facto relationship will still be afforded the same rights and recognition, regardless of whether you choose to register your relationship or not. Formalisation of a relationship through registration may be recommended in certain circumstances, such as where a couple is involved with visa or immigration processes, or perhaps in drafting a financial agreement between partners (widely referred to as a ‘pre-nup’ or pre-nuptial agreement with married couples).

Can a lawyer help with de facto separation?

Absolutely! Our dedicated team at Love Family Lawyers have extensive experience in assisting with separations and family breakdowns, including those between de facto partners. Gone are the days of traditional marriage (and divorce), and we’ve certainly kept up with the times! You can be assured that we will treat your case with respect and confidentiality in order to achieve the best possible outcome for your family. Contact us today to set up a consultation.

Lisa Lucas

Lisa Lucas

Legal Bookkeeping & Accounting

Meet Lisa, our seasoned professional who joined our team in August 2022, boasting an impressive background of over two decades in accounting. With a solid foundation in IT and a Bachelor of Science under her belt, Lisa’s journey evolved as she not only managed her own accounting firm but also earned postgraduate degrees in both accounting and commercial law.

In her pivotal role, Lisa is instrumental in maintaining the firm’s compliance and ensuring seamless operations. Her wealth of experience brings a wealth of knowledge to our team, contributing to our success and client satisfaction.

Beyond the numbers, Lisa finds balance in her life through activities like Pilates and walks with her beloved dogs. Her dedication, expertise, and passion make Lisa an invaluable asset to our team, driving us towards excellence in every aspect of our work.

Amy Hayslep

Amy Hayslep


Amy joined our team in December 2022 as a receptionist, where she plays a vital role in managing our firm’s administrative support and daily operations. 

Her commitment to excellence and efficiency has greatly contributed to the smooth running of our office. 

Amy is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Business with a focus on Marketing at the University of the Sunshine Coast, a testament to her dedication to professional growth and understanding of business dynamics. 

Amy’s aspiration to integrate her marketing insights into her current role demonstrates her forward-thinking approach and commitment to continuous improvement. Outside of work, Amy enjoys Pilates, baking, and gardening.

Jon Staby

Jon Staby


Jon was born in Windhoek, Namibia and moved with his family to Brisbane in 2005. Jon is currently studying his Bachelor of Laws and aims to complete it by the end of 2024. 

Jon has been currently working as a Paralegal since April 2023 and has a keen interest in all family law areas.  

Jon believes in the law to empathetically and expertly help clients to reach the best outcomes for their unique circumstances. 

In his free time, Jon’s hobbies include painting, playing basketball with friends, and watching television shows with his pet cat Luna.  

Serena May

Serena May

LLB (Hons) BBus

Serena was admitted to the profession in 2022 and holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours) and Bachelor of Business from QUT. 

Serena has previous experience as a Barrister’s Assistant in family law as well as working in a mid-tier commercial law firm in property law, wills and estates, employment law and construction disputes. This experience has provided her with the opportunity to learn from an array of senior legal practitioners before choosing to specialise in family law.

Serena is passionate about ensuring her clients feel well informed throughout their matter. Serena acknowledges every personal circumstance is unique and no other person knows exactly what it is like to walk in your shoes. 

Serena recognises that clients are often experiencing immense stress and require compassionate and efficient communication from start to finish to empower them to move on to the next chapter of their life.

On her weekends Serena enjoys heading to the coast for a surf and spending time with her poodle pup, Miss April May.

Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson

Practice Leader – Founder

Michael was awarded a Bachelor of Laws with Honours from QUT in 2012, and was admitted as a lawyer in 2013. 

He also has a Bachelor of Science from UQ which he was awarded in 2007 (before deciding that a career in law would be more interesting than science).

Michael has practiced exclusively in the areas of Family Law, Child Safety (Care and Protection), and Domestic Violence since mid-2014. 

Michael has experience as a Separate Representative for children in Child Safety cases and has appeared on behalf of hundreds of people in Family Law and Domestic Violence cases in Queensland and the ACT.

Michael’s experience means he has a particularly keen insight into how to best avoid Court and he has an excellent record of settling cases quickly and without unnecessary conflict and cost. 

That said, he also knows how to best prepare and conduct litigation if Court becomes unavoidable, and he will expertly guide you through even the most complex and delicate case.

Michael takes a genuine interest in his clients and will make sure that you are properly advised in a way that is easy to understand, without all the unnecessary jargon that so many lawyers love to use. You can trust Michael to be direct, flexible, and empathetic. 

When he is not at work, Michael loves being in the outdoors, whether that’s fishing from his kayak or working in the garden. He also loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen.

Matthew Watt

Matthew Watt

Practice Manager – Founder

As one of the founders of BWJ Law, Matt is an indispensable member of the executive team. 

He plays a pivotal role in the day-to-day operations of the firm, focusing on implementing operational strategies and realizing the organization’s vision. 

This ensures that all employees are equipped with the necessary resources to perform at their best, delivering unparalleled service to clients.

An active member of the Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and an associate member of the QLD Law Society, Matt consistently stays updated with the latest in legal practice management. 

He recognizes the significance of continuous professional growth, ensuring that he offers the best support to legal practitioners. 

Moreover, he adeptly manages a diverse range of corporate and strategic responsibilities inherent to the role of a practice manager.