Cohabiting but uncommitted. What the law says.

by Peter Magee on February 14, 2012

Peter Magee In The Australian, demographer, Bernard Salt, provides an overview of various types of “tribes” in Australia in his article called “Taking The Emerging Tribes From The Bush To The Big Smoke” dated 13 October 2011.

In particular, Salt describes the “clump” which “describes usually young couples (can be gay or straight; my terms do not discriminate) who live together without necessarily declaring their future intent”. Salt says that the term stands for “Cohabitating Lovers Uncommitted to Marriage or Partnership” and that this group or phase is used to “fill the void that has developed between boyfriend and girlfriend in the late teenage years and finance, which tends to emerge in the late 20’s”. He says that this trend is even international as Germans describe such relationships as “lebensabschnitts partner”, which translates to “a partner for a section of your life”.

Salt may be correct in identifying that there are several people that drift into a relationship between the ages of 20 to 30 that is simply for a section of their life, but is not a life-time committed relationship. The difficulty is that under the current law in Australia, if you have lived with someone as a couple you will come under de facto legislation that views property division in the same way as if you were married. This may be particularly surprising to those who have purposefully not had children and have kept all their finances separate but have simply been living together for the relatively short period of two years.

Arguably, people who have drifted into these relationships and have lived together for two years should not be treated identically as those who have chosen to marry for life. This includes the Court considering not just the contributions (both financial and non financial) you may have each made but also considering both parties “future needs” in an identical way as if you were married.

Arguably, on the one hand I think there are some relationships where people have been living together so long and are in a committed relationship that is equivalent to marriage, however, it may also be unfair that people can simply fall into a “clump” relationship only to find that the law treats them the same as if they were married.

If you have been living with your partner and are wondering how your property is likely to be divided now that you are separated, please contact Armstrong Legal on (02) 9261 4555 for free over the phone advice.

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