You may be forced to live separately by choice or by necessity including maintaining separate residences. You may have many reasons for doing this including work availability, care of elderly family relatives in another city or country or to support adult children as they pursue university and career opportunities far afield.
However, if you live separately from your partner, are you still in a relationship and what should happen if you break up? What happens if you have drifted apart?
These questions are not easy to answer.
If you are married then according to law you continue to be married until divorce. However in most cases divorce can only take place after 12 months of separation. Can your time apart count toward this period of separation?
This depends on whether your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Physical separation is not enough. Your marriage has to have actually broken down. Whether this has happened or not is in part determined by whether you both think it has. If your marriage has broken down then you may need legal advice regarding potential property division, child care arrangements and divorce.
What happens if you believe you are in a de-facto relationship and living apart? The Family Court can only make orders affecting your financial matters if you have been in a de-facto relationship for two years or more, or you have a child through your relationship or you have made a substantial contribution to property or welfare of your family and there would be injustice if the Court did not intervene. Therefore if you have a child the Court can intervene in your financial affairs whether you live together or not.
However, living together is only one of the factors that can indicate whether a de-facto relationship exists. It is a very strong indicator but not conclusive. Some other factors include the length of time of your relationship, whether you have cultivated a reputation in the public as being in a de-facto relationship, whether you have had sex with your partner, intermingling of each other’s finances or a financial dependency of one to the other, jointly owning property with your partner and whether, despite living apart, you have a mutual commitment to a shared life with your partner.
Along with our economy, relationships are being globalised and like our economy this brings challenges and uncertainty. Should you have concerns, then contact one of our friendly team for confidential advice.