On 2 August 2012, the Family Court of Australia handed down the decision of Allenby & Kimble  FamCA 614 (referred to as A & K).
A & K involved competing declarations sought by each party under s90RD Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) (FL Act); essentially, the court had to determine whether their relationship constituted a proper de facto relationship under the FL Act.
Courts are generally asked to determine this issue in the context of property claims made by one party against the other party to the relationship. However, property settlement claims cannot be made unless the parties were either married or in a de facto relationship.
The FL Act provides that two people will be in a de facto relationship if they lived “together as a couple on a genuine domestic basis”.
The legislation does not define precisely what constitutes a ‘genuine domestic relationship’; however, when determining the issue a court will have regard to various matters, such as the duration of the relationship, the nature and extent of their common residence, the care and support of children and several other factors which you can read about here.
In A & K, Ms Allenby sought a declaration from the Family Court that her relationship with Mr Kimble was a de facto relationship; Mr Kimble disputed that they had a de facto relationship of the kind contemplated by the F L Act.
Ms Allenby and Mr Kimble had been in a relationship for approximately 10 years, but only lived together over the last five of those years. They did not own property together, nor did they pool resources, but they did attend family events together, spend time with each other’s family and travel together.
Upon reviewing the legislation, case law and evidence, Justice Murphy concluded that the parties were in a de facto relationship, and that such relationship had subsisted for a period which included two continuous years up to the date of separation.
His Honour attached particular weight to factors such as that the couple had shared the master bedroom, and that the relationship moved from ‘separateness’ to a cohabitation.
Having overcome this threshold issue, Ms Allenby was free to pursue her property claims against Mr Kimble under the property settlement provisions of the FL Act.