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How do you protect your assets in a de-facto relationship?

You may have been through divorce before and had a financial settlement. Rebuilding financial stability again takes time but eventually you are happy when you have your own home, whether that is from buying out your ex for the family home or using the financial settlement amount to buy something else.

There may come a time when you start a new relationship and want to move in together.

Will they move into your place? Will you move in to their place?

If they move into your place, how do you protect your property from them making a claim if you split up?

Before you move in together you should consider doing a binding financial agreement/cohabitation agreement. You could list out what assets you both brought into the relationship and what would happen to them if you separated, a bit like a prenuptial agreement. Although binding financial agreements are expensive, it may be worth it! You may also consider putting your property into a family trust fund so it can protect your children’s inheritance.

Other ways to protect your assets are;

  • Choose a partner who has a similar financial wealth. If you have your own home, it may be prudent to choose someone who has their own home, so during separation the property pool may show fairly equal assets owned by both parties and can walk away with what you both had before your cohabitation.

  • Don’t live in your house or your new partners property but rent both of those out and rent something together. This will reduce the financial or non-financial contributions of either party to the other’s property.

  • Keep your financials completely separate. Don’t have a joint bank account, share a credit card account with two credit cards, or put utilities in both names.

  • If your new partner moved into your house, only have them pay rent or board which is market rate. Do not let them contribute a claim can be made to your mortgage repayments.

  • Be careful not to list them as a beneficiary in a will or superannuation fund.

  • If you start to make financial future plans, buy assets in joint names, or start a family together, this binds you into future property settlements upon separation.

If you didn’t protect your assets with a binding financial agreement or keeping finances separate and they moved into your house they need to have lived with you for 2 years to make a claim on your assets. This time limit doesn’t apply if you both have had a child together, or you have registered your de-facto relationship, or they made significant financial or non-financial contributions to your home such as renovations, gardening or housekeeping.

Your binding financial agreement may become weaker, unable to protect your assets as years go by with financial or non-financial contributions occurring over a long period of time. Your partner may also be use to a certain lifestyle which their future needs deem that it needs to be maintained beyond separation.

Many people get caught out thinking they won’t lose their house as they had it before their new relationship. They may have fallen head over heels in love and believe they will never split up so there is no risk that a property claim will occur. They may trust their partner thinking they would never make a claim as they would know the property was there before they were. They may even feel that they would offend their partner to ask to sign a binding financial agreement.

If you are concerned, reach out to a lawyer to gain legal advice.

Author - Cheryl Duffy - Divorce Coach, Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner & Parenting Coordinator

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