De Facto Relationship: Attitude is always significant; physical separation not so important

In the Family Court the Judge was asked to decide whether a de facto relationship continued to exist between two men after the year 2000. That they had lived together in a de facto relationship between 1991 and 2000 was not in dispute. What was being contested was whether the relationship continued until 2009.

The men met in 1991 when one was an aspiring artist who was 23 years younger than his partner, who had a successful business. They commenced to live together in a house owned by the older man in 1991, and travelled extensively together and always at the older man’s expense.

In January 2000 the younger man travelled to the United States and remained there until April 2000. The younger man maintained that the de facto relationship between them continued although in a different form until October 2010. The older man asserted that the relationship came to an end in January 2000 when the younger man left Sydney.

The Judge observed that while the younger man had been absent from Australia from May 2006 until the end of November 2008, she did not consider the physical separation to be determinative of the existence of the relationship, but rather it was the parties’ attitude which is significant. She noted that the emails exchanged between the parties suggested that the parties considered their relationship to be ongoing. They continued to live together, gardening, sharing cooking, dining together, shopping together, watching movies after dinner and sitting and talking together. They went out together and to the movies and continued to be physically affectionate to one another.

The Judge concluded that there was no evidence that the older man had formed the relevant intention or communicated it to his partner, of his intention to end the relationship and accordingly she found that a de facto relationship existed until 1 March 2009.


This article remains the property of Kate Austin Family Law and can only provide basic information and is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. This information cannot be relied on as a substitute for legal information and it is only general by nature. This information was generally correct at the time of writing but changes in legislation or procedure may change.