One of the many vexed issues that comes before the Family Court is whether a couple have met the legal definition of having been in a de facto relationship – and therefore whether there is a legal entitlement to a property division.
In the recent case of Caughy & Peckham the Applicant argued that the parties had been in a de facto relationship for three years; the Respondent said they had been in a relationship for less than two years.
Referring to the parties having lived together for a period of time, the existence of financial support (albeit sometimes expressed in an arm’s length manner), the purchase of a property together (including a declaration of being in a de facto relationship on the mortgage application) and the public aspects of the relationship (attending family events) the Court found that the parties were in a de facto relationship.
The Court then had to determine how long the de facto relationship was.
Using records of text messages between the parties the Court found that the relationship commenced on 4 October 2016.
The Respondent argued that there were five separations which totalled 13 and a half weeks – and on each occasion the Court should be satisfied that the relationship had broken down (and therefore deducted from the total period between commencement and end of the relationship). Her Honour considered each period alleged by the Respondent – principally with the assistance of the parties’ text messages which included references to things like missing each other and “resuming happy times”. Her Honour dismissed each of the ‘separations’ as a breakdown in the relationship.
It was common ground that on 4 January 2019 the Applicant found the Respondent in bed with another women. The Respondent argued that the relationship had broken down on a final basis on 22 December 2018. The Applicant argued 27 April 2019.
The Court found that the relationship ended on 4 January 2019. Therefore the parties were in a de facto relationship for 2 years and 3 months – and the Applicant was entitled to pursue a claim for a property division.
Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation