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Can I be in more than one de-facto relationship?


In today’s society, de-facto relationships are not so straight forward and “modern relationships” challenge the traditional ideas of a relationship.

In Western Australia, the Family Court Act 1997 (“Family Court Act”) governs de-facto relationships. When determining whether a relationship is de-facto, the Court must decide whether the relevant couple were living in a “marriage-like relationship”. One of the difficulties the Court faces is determining what is “marriage-like” especially in today’s society.

The Court will consider various indicators to determine whether a de-facto relationship exists. Under the Family Court Act, a de-facto relationship can exist, even if one person is legally married or in a de-facto relationship with another person.

There have been numerous cases to support this, determining that a de-facto relationship does not require exclusivity.

In the case of Cham & Sha [2015], Mr Sha was in a marriage of 14 years when he started his relationship with Ms Cham. Mr Sha would stay home with his wife as much as possible and visit Ms Cham approximately twice a week. Mr Sha and Ms Cham shared a very busy social life, frequenting restaurants and beaches. The Court held the parties were in a de-facto relationship as, amongst other things, Mr Sha exhibited a desire to be with both women.

What could this mean?

The de-facto spouse can apply for a property settlement and spousal maintenance under the Family Court Act.

The spouse must prove one of the following to the Court:

  1. That the duration of the relationship was at least 2 years; or
  2. There is a child of the relationship under 18 years of age; or
  3. They made substantial contributions and failure to make an Order would result in serious injustice.

Should the above criteria be satisfied, the Court can then make Orders to alter the parties' property interests.

If you are separated and wondering whether you classify as a de-facto relationship or are concerned about being in more than one de-facto relationship at a time, we encourage you to contact our Family Law Team.


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Monday, 16 May 2022