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4 Key Disadvantages of De Facto Relationships

de facto disadvantages | Justice Family Lawyers

De facto relationships have some benefits, like not having to be married legally, but de facto relationships can have disadvantages in some ways. Section 4AA of the Family Law Act 1975 defines a de facto relationship or cohabitation as two people living together under one roof but not legally married. 

In Australia, de facto relationships have become more common in recent years. They offer an alternative to traditional marriage for couples who don’t want to get married. But each of these arrangements has its own set of problems. Even though the law recognises de facto relationships and shares some benefits with married couples, they have many problems.

These can include legal issues like how to divide up property and who gets what money, as well as social and psychological factors. When thinking about a de facto relationship, knowing these cons is important. 

Let’s look at four of the biggest disadvantages of de facto relationships to get a full picture.

Legal Uncertainties: A Major Downside

Although Australia’s Family Law Act 1975 recognises de facto relationships, significant legal uncertainties remain. These primarily concern the division of de facto property and financial support upon relationship dissolution.

For married couples, the law clearly outlines these processes. However, for de facto couples, the division of assets can become complex and contentious, often resulting in protracted legal battles.

Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is also less specific, as the lack of a clear marital contract leaves room for interpretation and dispute.

Also read: De Facto Breakup Entitlements Australia

Financial Insecurity: A Daunting Concern

One of the disadvantages of de facto relationships is the potential for financial insecurity. Without a legal marriage contract, one partner may bear a disproportionate share of financial responsibilities.

Moreover, in the event of a partner’s death, inheritance laws may not be as protective as they would be for a legally married spouse. Additionally, eligibility for certain social security benefits or health insurance coverage might not extend to de facto partners, further exacerbating financial uncertainty.

Also read: How to Terminate a De Facto Relationship Legally?

Lack of Societal Recognition: An Emotional Burden

Society’s view of de facto relationships and acceptance of them can cause emotional stress, and it is also one of the disadvantages of de facto relationships.

Marriage is an important part of many cultures and societies worldwide. In these situations, de facto relationships are often seen through a stigmatising or misunderstood lens, which makes people not accept them.

This feeling of not being accepted can affect many parts of social life.

De facto couples might have trouble being seen as a family unit, face prejudices when renting homes, or even be mistreated at social or community events. Also, this lack of recognition can worsen when big things happen, like having a baby or a family emergency, which could make the emotional burden even heavier.

People in de facto relationships can experience emotional distress because of the pressures of society and the possibility of being alone.

They might feel judged, left out, or unimportant because of their relationship status, which could make them feel alone and uncomfortable. This aspect of society is a big problem with de facto relationships that are often overlooked but have significant effects.

Also read: From Cohabitation to Courtroom: De Facto Relationship Rights Australia

Complexities Around Parental Rights

Legal parentage can be questioned, especially regarding reproductive technology, adoption, or children not biologically related to the parents.

In some places, the legal parents of a child born into a de facto relationship aren’t automatically both the mother and father, like they usually are when a couple is married. This could lead to a dispute.


Question: What are the disadvantages of de facto relationships?

Answer: While de facto relationships afford some flexibility and freedom from the legalities of traditional marriage, they present notable disadvantages that should be considered.

Legal uncertainties, specifically related to property division, financial support, and parental rights, pose substantial challenges due to variations in jurisdictional laws.

Financial insecurity also looms large, given the lack of legally binding agreements to safeguard financial equity and benefits entitlement.

Moreover, societal recognition, or lack thereof, can induce emotional distress due to prevalent stigmas and misunderstandings.

Lastly, the complexities around parental rights, particularly in cases of relationship dissolution, can lead to emotionally taxing disputes and potential legal battles.

Overall, the cons of de facto relationships underscore the need for comprehensive understanding and careful consideration when choosing this path.

Need Advice On Your De Facto Relationship Issues?

Our de facto property settlement lawyers understand the complexity of being in a de facto relationship. We are committed to providing our clients with the highest quality legal advice and representation. 

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