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  • Writer's pictureJusteen Dormer

De Facto Relationships and Living Apart

De Facto Relationships and Living Apart

Is it possible to maintain a de-facto relationship while living in separate houses? Under intestacy laws, both partners must have a relationship as a couple living together continuously for at least two years to be recognised as a de-facto relationship. Diverse family arrangements are becoming more common and de-facto couples now have many options at their disposal to suit their unique situations.

Living together as a couple

NSW courts have determined that de-facto couples are not required to live together under the same roof if other evidence shows the nature and quality of the relationship. In the case of Estate Pamplin; Irwin v Pamplin, the plaintiff argued she was the de-facto partner of the deceased and was entitled to inherit the whole of the deceased’s estate. The deceased's family challenged this by arguing the plaintiff and the deceased only shared a friendship. This was because they lived separately, they did not regularly attend social and family gatherings together and the plaintiff’s failure to name the deceased as her de facto partner in Centrelink records.

The plaintiff proved her de-facto relationship using a variety of evidence to support her claim. Emails sent by the deceased expressed his desire for the plaintiff to inherit his estate. Even though the couple lived apart, their houses were on the same property and they both held interests in a shared property. The plaintiff explained that living in separate houses allowed her to care for her elderly mother and pursue their own personal hobbies. The court described their relationship as intimate and monogamous with the plaintiff becoming integrated with the deceased’s family finances. Ultimately, the plaintiff was recognised as the de-facto partner and inherited the deceased’s estate.

The courts will now consider a wider range of factors in determining the existence of a de-facto relationship on a case by case basis. Living together under the same roof is no longer the only requirement in proving a de-facto relationship.

Get in touch with Dormer Stanhope for guidance on this important area of law. Justeen Dormer is an expert in estate litigation with extensive experience in this field. For more insight into your rights as a de-facto partner, contact our team on (02) 9098 5740 or via email at to arrange a consultation.



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