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What if we choose not to register our relationship? Is our relationship still legally recognised?

If you choose not to register your relationship, your relationship may still be recognised for some purposes, such as:

  • Applying for Legal Aid;
  • Social Security Payments and Benefits;
  • Tax;
  • Reproductive technologies;
  • Parenting Orders;
  • Child Support;
  • Intervention Orders;
  • Agreements about property;
  • Stamp Duty;
  • Criminal Code.

For other purposes, however, your relationship must generally have existed for a period of one, two or three years, to be recognised, and a declaration of your relationship may be necessary.

Below are some of the most common time requirements for recognition and the purposes to which they apply.

One year for recognition: migration (Migration Act)

Two years for recognition: property disputes (Family Law Act)

Three years for recognition: State law matters, including

  • Inadequate provision in a will;
  • Where there is no will;
  • Death caused by a negligent act;
  • Superannuation under a State scheme;
  • Death caused by crime;
  • Workplace death;
  • Entering into a surrogacy agreement.

NOTE: if there is a child of the relationship, the relevant time period may not be required and a relationship of any length will be recognised.

See De facto relationships for more information about these time requirements.

For further comparison of unregistered de facto relationships, registered relationships and marriage, see also the table below.

Unregistered de facto relationships, registered relationships and marriage compared
Unregistered de facto relationship Registered Relationship Marriage
Application/Notice of commencing relationship lodged with N/A Registrar for Births, Deaths and Marriages Authorised celebrant
When relationship commences/may commence N/A 28 days later One month later
Fee for registration N/A $108 N/A
Ceremony N/A Optional Yes
Ended by Separation

Death; Marriage; Revocation

Death; Separation and divorce
Requirements of ending Separation

Application setting out that a party wishes to revoke the registration

If there is no separation, the relationship may continue as an unregistered de facto relationship

Application setting out that the marriage has broken down irretrievably evidenced by 12 months separation
Application to end relationship lodged with N/A Registrar for Births, Deaths and Marriages Federal Circuit Court
When end takes effect Upon separation 90 days after application to revoke registration, but marriage can otherwise end a registered relationship sooner 1 month after divorce order
Fee for ending N/A $108 $900; reduced fee $300

Recognition for various purposes

Centrelink Yes Yes Yes
Income tax Yes Yes Yes
Migration Yes, after 1 year, child or waiver Yes Yes
Property Settlement Yes, after 2 years, child or waiver Yes Yes
Where there is no will Yes, after 3 years, child or declaration* Yes Yes
Inadequate provision in a will Yes, after 3 years, child or declaration* Yes Yes
Consent to medical treatment Yes, after 3 years, child or declaration* Yes Yes
Nationwide recognition Yes, but varying requirements for recognition No, registered relationships are not yet recognised in WA or NT Yes

*These requirements for recognition apply in SA only: requirements may vary from State to State.


What if we choose not to register our relationship? Is our relationship still legally recognised?  :  Last Revised: Thu Feb 8th 2018
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.