Information & Articles

Determining De facto Relationships: Finding Certainty in Murky Waters

The nature of family law work over the last two decades has been slowly but steadily changing, as parties in de facto relationships continue to rise in numbers, while the numbers of formal marriages continue to fall or have plateaued. Since the 1970’s, there has been a steady fall in the number of “crude” marriages, (that is, the number of marriages registered in a calendar year per 1,000 population), from 9 per thousand, to a steady rate of about 5.5 per thousand in the early 2000’s.

By comparison, the number of people in de facto relationships in the early 2000s rose by some 25%. Approximately 1,200,000 Australians lived in a recognised de facto relationship in 2006 representing some 15% of all relationships and presumably that number has continued to rise over the last 10 years, both as a proportion of all relationships and a raw increase in numbers as the population continues to increase.

Later statistics from 2011 also include 33,713 same-sex couples into the mix of relationships that are included in our family law world. Unsurprisingly, since the transfer of jurisdiction from the State Courts to the Family/Federal Circuit Courts in 2009, the “de facto property” jurisdiction of those Courts has also continued to expand and absorb the time and resources of those Courts.

To read our paper, click here (pdf, 389kb)