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Should I register my de facto relationship?

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In some states in Australia, de facto couples can register their relationship with the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Register de facto relationship

Many states in Australia allow de facto couples to register their relationship.

Once the application to register the relationship is approved, a relationship certificate is issued, which is similar in form to a marriage certificate.

Registration is open to all couples, whether same sex or heterosexual.

The states that currently allow you to register a de facto relationship are:-

• NSW;
• QLD;
• Victoria;
• ACT; and
• Tasmania.

Benefits of registering your de facto relationship

Registering your relationship is an easy and inexpensive way to formalise your de facto status and formally express your commitment to each other. There are legal benefits as well, including:-

  • you can rely on your relationship certificate as proof of your de facto status for legal purposes or to satisfy government agencies and/or receive tax, Centrelink or superannuation benefits;
  • your relationship will be legally recognised. That means you won’t have to satisfy any other criteria in order to prove that you are in a de facto relationship.

Other ways of proving you are in a de facto relationship

There are situations in which you might need to prove that you are in a de facto relationship.

If your relationship is not registered, the legal system in Australia recognises the following criteria as being indicative of a relationship. You don’t have to prove all of these factors exist, rather the relationship as a whole will be considered, particularly:

  • the duration of a relationship;
  • the nature and extent of a common residence;
  • whether or not a sexual relationship exists;
  • the degree of financial dependence or interdependence, and any arrangements for financial support, between the parties;
  • the joint ownership, use and acquisition of property;
  • the degree of mutual commitment to a shared life;
  • the care and support of children;
  • the performance of household duties; and
  • the reputation and public aspects of the relationship.

This can be quite an intrusive (and public) ordeal. If you have a registered relationship, you do not need to go to these lengths to prove your relationship, and you should not need any further evidence to prove that the de facto relationship exists.

Updating your status if you separate

You can easily update your status if you later separate by lodging the appropriate form with the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registry of your state.

In some circumstances, the de facto relationship will automatically be terminated. For example, if one of the parties dies, if you get married (in which case you will then be classed as being a married, not de facto, couple) or one of you marries another person. However, you should inform BDM of the change and update your status on their records. See the below links for more details on the forms you need.

Centrelink notification of relationship

If you are in a de facto relationship, and you are receiving benefits or payments calculated or based on your relationship status, you will need to notify Centrelink if you enter into a de facto relationship.

This is different to registering your relationship at the Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. You are able to submit your Certificate of Registration of Relationship, to Centrelink to Centrelink as proof of your relationship.

Centrelink considers a person to be partnered if they are:-

  • married; or
  • in a registered relationship (opposite-sex or same-sex); or
  • in a de facto relationship (opposite-sex or same-sex).

You can read more information about Centrelink’s requirements for de facto couples, here.

How and where to register your relationship

Victorian – Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, Victoria

New South Wales – Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, New South Wales

Queensland – Queensland Government

Tasmania – Births, Deaths and Marriages, Tasmania

Australian Capital Territory – Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages, ACT (referred to as registration of a “civil partnership”)

About the author

Director of RP Emery Legal Kits. As a non-lawyer herself, she understands the confusion and unease that many people experience when confronted with a legal issue. That’s why she works to make legal matters simpler and more easily understood. The bottom line is that there are many common legal transactions that you can handle yourself quite comfortably.