Family Law Blog

How do you Register a de facto Relationship in Victoria… and Why Would You?

When it comes to Family Law matters we deal with the breakdown of two types of relationships, marriages and de facto relationships.

A marriage is usually pretty straight forward to prove, and we’ve written previously on our blog about proving a de facto relationship exists.

In this article we are going to expand your knowledge a little bit further and talk about registration of domestic relationships in Victoria and consider whether registering your relationship is something you should actually do and if so, how you go about registering a relationship in Victoria?

In this article we’ll try to tackle both questions.

A Note on Terminology

Technically, the process we set out here is about registering a “domestic” relationship. However, many of our clients use the language of a “de facto” relationship. For that reason we’ve used both terms interchangeably in this article.

What is a Domestic relationship?

A domestic relationship in Victoria is defined under the Relationships Act 2008 as

a relationship between two people who are not married and live together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis irrespective of gender.

Who Can Register a Relationship, and What Requirements Are There?

Not all States in Australia have implemented the concept of relationship registration (other than marriage), but in Victoria you can register a domestic relationship under the Relationships Act 2008.

The requirements to register a relationship are fairly straightforward. Both partners need to take part in the registration process – for obvious reasons.

First, you both need to be over 18.

You will both also need to prove your identity using a standard identity check. If you have them, the simplest way to do this is with your driver licence and passport (you can send certified copies in with your paperwork if you’re not doing it in person).

At least one of you will need to live in Victoria, and provide evidence of that.
In terms of your actual relationship, you need to provide genuine domestic support to each other, and be in a committed relationship together.

Can Same Sex Couples Register a Domestic Relationship?

Yes. Relationship registration is open to both heterosexual and same sex couples.

Who Can’t Register a Domestic Relationship?

Other than simply not meeting the requirements above, you can’t register a relationship if you’re in an existing marriage or registered relationship with a person who is not your current partner.

If you’ve been married or in a previously registered relationship you’re going to need to convince the State that relationship has come to an end. You might do that with a certificate or divorce or a certificate of revocation of your previous registered relationship, for example.

How Do You Register A Domestic Relationship?

To actually register your relationship, you’ll need to:

There’s a 28 day cooling-off period (in case you realise you made a mistake), after which if your information and documentation is all present and correct it will be processed, and your relationship will be registered.

What does it mean once you have registered you’re a Domestic Relationship?

How will your relationship be viewed legally? The fact that you and your partner have registered your domestic relationship in Victoria doesn’t mean that you will be automatically found to have a de facto relationship under the Family Law Act.

But, registering your domestic relationship IS one of the factors that will be taken into account, and will weigh in favour of a Court finding that a true de facto relationship actually existed under the Family Law Act.

Important Note: this topic is regularly confused. While registering your relationship won’t create an automatic finding of a de facto relationship, it will mean that (once a de facto relationship is established) the Court can make orders under the Family Law Act about property and maintenance. It’s a bit technical so we suggest you get in touch if it’s a concern for you.

So Why Would you Register your  Relationship?

There are a variety of personal and practical reasons why you might want to register your domestic or de facto relationship:

  • If you separate and you want to seek a property settlement under the Family Law Act, having a registered domestic relationship can help the court to find that a de facto relationship exists and once this is established it gives the Court the power to divide your assets;
  • It can be a demonstration of your commitment to each other without the formality or expense of marriage (in some places you can arrange a ceremony to accompany your registration);
  • Centrelink will recognise your relationship together if it is registered;
    It can assist with claims under superannuation, if needed, to establish your connection to the other party;
  • In some cases it can assist should one of you die, allowing the other partner to receive a fair share of the estate – however, you should always get specific advice on your estate planning rather than relying on “in some cases” statements in a blog post;
  • It can assist to have your relationship recognised interstate or sometimes overseas.

Registering is a fairly simple way that you and your partner can formalise your relationship together. It can help you get through some legal hurdles along the way, and be a sign to others of your commitment together.

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