When it comes to relationships, society is certainly changing, and as more and more couples chose to live in de facto relationships, the uptake of marriage is slowly declining.

With marriages declining, the rate of divorce has also naturally declined.

In 1976, the divorce rate was 4.6 per 1,000 residents but has since declined progressively to 2.7 in 1980 and 2.1 in 2013.

While more and more people seem to be choosing de facto relationships over marriage, or are at least cohabiting prior to marriage, both carry implications from a legal, as well as an emotional standpoint.

Why are de facto relationships growing in popularity?

The increase in the number of de facto relationships and the decrease in the number of marriages is correlated with less societal and familial pressure to marry, particularly at an earlier age. Additionally, moralistic attitudes about cohabitation and our expectations for a relationship have changed.

The statistics supporting the rise of de facto relationships paint a very clear picture:-

  • Unmarried couples living together rose from 5.7% in 1986 to a 16.2% in 2011 according to data from the Australian Institute of Family Studies; and
  • Couples living together but going on to marry rose from 16% in 1975 to a staggering 76.6%.

Statistics to one side – couples and in particular women – no longer feel the same societal or moralistic pressure to marry as they did 60-70 years ago when the presence of women in the workforce was much lower and women may have been more fearful that they would struggle to support themselves without a partner.  In those times, men were primarily the breadwinners and women primarily the homemaker and caregivers of the children.

In today’s more egalitarian society, these gender roles are no longer the norm and the need to marry for financial support or security is not questionable.

Furthermore, it was generally not acceptable for couples to live together before they were married, or at least engaged to one another.  As a result, many married couples lived together for the first time after they had already tied the knot and before they could determine whether they were actually compatible on a daily basis.

But the newer generations have learned from the mistakes of the previous generations and have realised that determining whether they are able to live together harmoniously prior to deciding to marry is perhaps the key to a lasting relationship.

Legal implications of cohabiting and de facto relationships

Perhaps another reason for an incline in the number of de facto relationships has to do with the fact that de facto relationships are recognised under the Family Law Act 1975 and offer couples the same legal rights as married couples.

One major point of difference, however, is that you may have to prove that your relationship meets several criteria to be considered a de facto relationship including (but not limited to):-

  • establishing that the de facto relationship was at least two years in duration;
  • that there is a child of the de facto relationship;
  • that the de facto relationship was registered under the law of your respective Territory or State; or
  • that significant and demonstrable contributions were made by one party and the subsequent failure to make an order could result in an injustice to one of the parties.
Joshua Williams

I listen to clients to get to the root of their concerns so we can implement tailored solutions to achieve resolution as soon as possible.

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