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Finding certainty in determining whether a "De Facto Relationship" exists: An impossible task?

Section 2D(1) of the Property (Relationships) Act 1976 defines a “de facto relationship” as “a relationship between 2 persons … who live together as a couple”. Although the Act does not define “living together as a couple”, section 2D(2) & (3) provides that “[i]n determining whether 2 persons live together as a couple, all the circumstances of the relationship are to be taken into account, including … [a list of 9 matters]” and that none of these 9 matters is “to be regarded necessary” and “a court is entitled to have regard to such matters, and to attach such weight to any matter, as may seem appropriate … in the circumstances of the case” (emphases added). The seemingly unfettered discretion of the Court, delegated by section 2D, may be helpful in pursuing a fair and just outcome for each case, but it also raises a great concern as to uncertainty. This paper examines some relevant cases and argues that “mutual commitment to a shared life” should be at the core of section 2D and be the most important test, and by which certainty can be found to a large extent, in determining whether a de facto relationship exists. Accordingly, this paper recommends that amendments should be made to the legislation to aid the interpretation and application of section 2D.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Liao, Z. (2015). Finding certainty in determining whether a ‘De Facto Relationship’ exists: An impossible task? Canterbury Law Review, 21, 112–124.
University of Canterbury
This is an author’s accepted version of an article published in the journal: Canterbury Law Review. Used with permission.