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Do De Facto Relationships Come With Extra Rights?

August 20, 2022


Today, we’re looking into de facto relationships, exploring what they are, what they mean, and whether they have additional rights compared with modern relationships.

Modern households are so different from how traditional relationships used to be, and nowadays, there are many ways a household can run. Gone are the days when families would have a mother, father, and children but instead have all kinds of setups and possible relationships.

While this is progressive and librating, this can cause uncertainty from a legal perspective, with many relationships unsure where they stand and what their rights are upon something happening between them. 

What is a De Facto Relationship?

A de facto couple basically refers to the traditional form of relationship from generations past. However, it relates to both same-sex and heterosexual couples. Most countries and nations define a de facto relationship similar to the United States Family Law Act.

This states that two people (of the same or differing sex) who state they are in a relationship with each other and live together are classed as a de facto relationship. However, this doesn’t refer to married couples.

If a couple is married, divorced, or is related to each other but are still living together, this does not class as a de facto relationship. While the actual criteria can vary from country to country, the standard outline to follow when defining a de facto relationship is as follows;

  • A qualifying relationship of two years or more
  • There is a child in the relationship
  • The relationship is or has been registered under a prescribed law of a State
  • Any kind of contributions have been made by one party, the failure of which could have led to severe legal or financial consequences

In many cases, this is known as ‘co-habitation,’ but it raises some concerns, especially regarding legal rights and the law.

Do De Facto Relationships Come With Extra Rights? - person holding hands

Do De Facto Relationships Have Extra Rights?

Interestingly, whether or not de facto relationships have any rights depends on where you are in the world. If you were living in Italy, for example, you would not have had any rights as an unmarried couple until 2016, and even then, they were limited.

Many countries have come a long way since then, but it’s still very limited compared to the list of rights you get as a married couple. That means that generally speaking, no, you don’t have extra rights when you’re in a de facto relationship.

This is because there’s no real legal definition for what ‘living together’ means in terms of time frames and consistency. 

You can get around this by signing and agreeing to a ‘co-habitation contract’ or what is known as a ‘living together agreement.’ These can vary case-to-case but will legally outline the rights and responsibilities you have towards each other in a de facto relationship. They’ll need to be drawn up by a professional, so you may need to hire local family lawyers in Melbourne to ensure it’s carried out properly.

But generally speaking, if no legal agreement exists, then there are no rights. If one partner dies, the other won’t inherit the other person’s finances or assets unless otherwise stated in the will, nor can they automatically gain power of attorney over the other. 

There are no legally binding child arrangement laws or responsibilities, no necessary child support or guardianship unless you’re both the parents, and debts are only ever liable in the names of the person who has taken them out.


As you can see, there are no real extra rights that de facto couples have when together, nor any legally binding contracts, rights, rules, or responsibilities. This can, of course, be changed with legal documents and agreements of contracts, but these will need to be discussed, written up, and finalized with the assistance of a legal professional.

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