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De facto relationships

The Relationships Register Act 2016 (SA), which came into operation on 1 August 2017, makes it possible for a couple (irrespective of their sex or gender identity) to register their relationship with the office of Births Deaths and Marriages in South Australia. The eligibility requirements and procedures are similar to those for a marriage and the effect of registration is marriage-like, please see Registered relationships for more information.

Relationships between people of any sex or gender are now recognised under both Commonwealth and South Australian laws. Therefore, in this section, relationships between people of any sexuality or gender are all referred to as "unregistered de facto relationships".

An unregistered de facto relationship of any length will be recognised in some areas of law; that is, there is no time requirement for recognition of the relationship. In these cases, the de facto relationship is treated as a marriage. Areas of law covered here:

  • Applying for Legal Aid
  • Social Security Payments and Benefits
  • Tax
  • Children (including recognition of the birth of a child to same-sex female parents)
  • Child Support
  • Intervention Orders
  • Agreements about property
  • Stamp Duty
  • Criminal Code

In other areas of law, a de facto relationship must either be registered or have existed for a certain period of time before it is recognised. Depending on the area of law, an unregistered de facto relationship must have existed for a one year, two year or three year period.

One year for recognition: migration law.

Two years for recognition: property disputes (Family Law Act).

Three years for recognition: State law matters, including

  • Inadequate provision in a will
  • Where there is no will
  • Death caused by a negligent act
  • Superannuation under a State scheme
  • Death caused by crime
  • Workplace death

NOTE: if there is a child of the relationship, the relevant time period may not be required and a relationship of any length will be recognised.

De facto relationships  :  Last Revised: Mon Aug 31st 2020
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.