In legal terminology, "de facto" means in fact, whether it is right or not. In other words, it defines a certain situation that may lead to consequences, whether they were intended or not. This reference to intention can have a major bearing on the life of two individuals who have, for one reason or another, decided to become involved with each other. It can open up a can of worms in some cases and is a good reason for the said individuals to think very carefully before moving ahead. Why is this so complicated and what could the repercussions be in your case?
The Better Approach – or Is It?
Some people think that there is too much risk involved in getting married these days, just in case "something goes wrong." One may be the breadwinner and have significant assets, while the other does not, and in the early days, they may wish to keep it that way to a certain extent. Of course, the whole objective of moving forward is to make life better for both concerned, but if they have an informal relationship, then things cannot get out of hand should they separate.
Not so Fast
This is often far from the case, however, as a court of law will often treat them as if they were married when it comes to the division of assets and other responsibilities.
This can be a very complicated scenario, especially when you consider some previous case law. In the past, a court has ruled that one person may have a de facto relationship with another, even though they are legally married to a third party who is completely outside that relationship. In some cases, three individuals could be in a de facto relationship and you can only imagine how complicated that could be to unravel.
Generally speaking, the court will look impartially at many different factors when they are sifting through the case. They will look at the length of the relationship, especially if it has spread over two years or more and will want to know whether there were any sexual relations involved. They will want to know whether the individuals shared a common property and actually lived together, and they will want to know if one party depended on the other for their financial well-being.
Typically, a number of "pointers" will become evident, and they could be derived from something as simple as a social media account. Nevertheless, a great deal of information will typically be gathered and analysed before a decision is made.
What You Should Do
If you are about to embark on what could be a lifetime together on an informal basis, you should still commit your agreement to writing and get it witnessed by an impartial observer. Talk with a family lawyer first to help you draft this document properly so you can avoid as many of the potential problems associated with a de facto relationship as possible.