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De facto and same-sex relationships 

Legal Information

Am I in a de facto relationship?

A de facto relationship describes a relationship between a man and woman who live together as husband and wife although they are not legally married. In some cases, same-sex couples can also be in a de facto relationship. There is no one legal definition of a de facto relationship as there are different requirements for different legal purposes.

The same laws apply to same-sex couples as heterosexual (different-sex) couples.

What happens if there is a dispute about children?

The same family law covers disputes about all children. See Children and parenting.

What happens if there is a dispute about property?

If your de facto relationship ended on or after 1 March 2009, you may be able to apply for a property settlement under the Family Law Act if:

  • you lived together as a couple for at least two years, or
  • there is a child of the relationship, or
  • you or your ex-partner made substantial contributions (financial or otherwise) to the relationship.

If you lived in WA for part of your relationship, you should get legal advice.

See Dividing your property.

Does it matter if we were not married?

No. If you are a de facto (including same-sex) couple you are now able to apply for a property settlement and/or spousal maintenance under the Family Law Act.

Is a same sex relationship recognised by law?

  • Same sex couples cannot legally marry in Australia.
  • Overseas marriages of same sex couples are not recognised as marriages in Australia.
  • Same sex relationships are recognised as de facto relationships for some legal purposes but not all.
  • Same sex couples can own property jointly and have the same rights to property settlement as other de facto couples in Queensland.
  • Same sex couples can leave property to each other in their will and can appoint each other in a power of attorney or statutory health authority.
  • A de facto partner, including same sex couples, are considered spouses under the intestacy rules.
  • Domestic violence protection orders are available to same sex couples.
  • Same sex couples cannot legally adopt a child but can be considered as foster carers.
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Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you are, or have been part of a de facto relationship and have questions about:

  • property disputes with your ex-partner
  • leaving property to your partner in your will
  • domestic violence protection orders
  • discrimination.
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Where can I get legal advice

Legal Aid Queensland may provide legal advice on the rights of de facto (including same sex) couples in some areas of law. We cannot provide advice about wills.

The following organisations may also be able to give legal advice on your matter.

Community legal centres give legal advice on a range of topics. Contact them to see if they can help with your matter.

LGBTI Legal Service provides legal advice and assistance to clients with legal problems arising from their identification as LGBTI and/or who prefer to deal with solicitors with an understanding of LGBTI issues. The service has a number of legal information factsheets available on their website.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private solicitor for advice or representation.

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Who else can help?

These organisations may also be able to assist with your matter. They do not provide legal advice.

Gay and Lesbian Welfare Association provide information, referral and telephone counselling with a focus on the wellbeing of the LGBTI communities.

Queensland Association for Healthy Communities (QAHC) promotes the health of LGBTI people in Queensland.

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Disclaimer - Copyright © 1997 Legal Aid Queensland. This content is provided as an information source only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should seek legal advice from a lawyer. Legal Aid Queensland believes the information is accurate as at 25 November 2011 but accepts no responsibility for any errors or omissions and denies all liability for any expenses, losses, damages and costs you might incur due to the information being inaccurate or incomplete in any way.

Last modified: 21 January 2014 4:15PM
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De facto and same-sex relationships