de facto relationship

Can a Long Term De-facto Be Determined if You Don’t Live Together De Facto Relationships

A de facto relationship has been explained in a previous article. We explore a case where the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia found that a de facto relationship existed for 18 months between a married man and a former sex worker.

A very brief summary of the case of Sha & Cham is set out below:

  • The parties met at a massage parlour that Ms Sha worked in late 2011.
  • In February/March 2012, the parties began a sexual relationship
  • In mid-March 2012, the parties discussed having a baby together and Ms. Cham stopped working at the massage parlour.
  • The parties began to see each other at Ms. Cham’s home where Mr. Cha occasionally stayed overnight.
  • Mr. Cham provided financial support to Ms. Sha, by way of monthly and lump-sum payments. The payments were applied towards Ms. Sha’s rental accommodation and general living expenses as she no longer worked at the massage parlour.
  • The parties entered into a Financial Agreement in August 2012.
  • Ms. Sha fell pregnant in September 2012 and the parties had a child together in mid-2013.
  • Mr. Cham and his former wife, separated in October 2012.
  • In November 2013, Ms. Sha signed the separation declaration required under the Financial Agreement.
  • Ms. Sha filed proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court to enforce the Financial Agreement.

Mr. Cham argued that he and ms Sha were not in a de facto relationship at the time of entering into the Financial Agreement. The Court deemed a de facto relationship to be in existence at the time of entering the Financial Agreement.

Key takeaway points:

  • A de facto relationship can exist even though one of the spouse’s remains legally married.
  • To determine whether a de facto relationship exists, the circumstances of the relationship need to be assessed and given weight as the Court deems appropriate.
  • Mr. Cham assured Ms. Sha that he would support her and their future child which was evidenced by entering into the Financial Agreement.
  • Each factor under Section 4AA of the Family Law Act should not be looked at standing alone, but as to the context of the relationship as a whole.

This case highlights the importance of seeking legal advice regarding your specific case, especially if you are considering entering into a Financial Agreement during your relationship, pre-marriage, or post-separation.

If you are in doubt about what could happen in the event of a separation between you and a potential de facto spouse or wife/husband, we encourage you to speak to one of our friendly family lawyers at either our Gold Coast or Brisbane office.


Meet us to talk about your family law issues before committing to paying for any legal fees. We believe that this way, you can see if you are comfortable with our team and the legal strategy that we propose prior to making a financial commintment.