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Family forum: Rights in a defacto relationship

What are my rights?

QUESTION:

I have been in a de facto relationship for years. We raised my son together as well as financially supporting my partner’s children who stayed for holidays. I have been the main financial contributor.

My partner obtained the house we live in after a long battle with his ex-wife. The house is solely in his name.

We have been unsettled in our relationship since recently moving into the house and taking back his teenaged son who has mental health issues. He is now continually kicking me and our younger son out, stating it is not our home and he can have police remove me.

I paid for this house and for her to keep this house and his children, as he has never been financially viable. I also paid his debts and personal loans for a car he has taken from me. Where do I stand?

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ANSWER:

As your relationship lasted more than two years and you have made a significant contribution you are entitled by law to make a claim for an adjustment of property, or property settlement, against your former partner.

However, it is not clear whether you want to leave the relationship. If you want to stay, then you should seek counselling or advice from a psychologist or social worker to help you cope and develop a strategy to deal with these problems. Ideally your partner would attend and you would work through these problems together.

If it is not your intention to stay in the relationship, then you should seek legal advice as soon as possible about your rights. Contact the Legal Services Commission or a community legal centre.
If you’re unsure, counselling can help you sort out where your relationship is going, what you want for the future and what is best for you and each of the children.

The panel noted the home in which you lived is registered solely in the name of your partner. You should consider placing a caveat on the title of that property if you contributed to the purchase or maintenance of the property. You should discuss that possibility with a solicitor who specialises in family law matters.

Payments you have made on behalf of your de facto will be taken into account in any consideration of an appropriate settlement. So will your work in parenting children and maintaining the home.
The value of the car you helped pay for will be brought to account in any settlement with your partner. We assume the car is registered solely in the name of your partner. If it is in joint names, or if it is in your name, then you are entitled to take possession of the car.

The panel is concerned that you are repeatedly being kicked out of the home. Even though the house is in your partner’s name, it is treated by the Court as a relationship home and you have an emotional and legal interest in the home. It is unlikely in the circumstances you have described that the police would force you to leave the home, despite it being registered solely in the name of your partner. That, however, is a matter that you should consult a solicitor about. It may be possible to take action in the Family Court that could stabilise the situation, or you may be able to reach an agreement at mediation, or with the assistance of a lawyer.

Submit Your Questions

Family Forum is a panel of general practitioners, medical specialists, lawyers, therapeutic and financial counsellors to discuss each letter before the appropriate professional answers it. The panel is appointed by Relationships Australia SA.

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