A de facto relationship exists where two people, who are neither married nor related to each other, live together on a genuine domestic basis and includes same-sex relationships.
In determining whether a de facto relationship truly exists, the court will consider several factors, including but not limited to: the duration of the relationship, whether a sexual relationship exists, the degree of financial support, and your reputation and public aspects of your relationship. If you have engaged in a de facto relationship for at least two years, you are entitled to similar relief upon separation that you would be entitled to if you had chosen to marry.
In 2008 major changes were made with regard to the way the law treats de facto couples that subsequently separate. Now, de facto relationships fall under the purview of the federal law and are discussed in The Family Law Act of 1975. The 2008 amendment basically allowed for de facto couples to be entitled to nearly identical relief as married couples in terms of property settlement, maintenance, and financial agreements.
The bottom line is that the law awards some protection for de facto couples even though you and your partner chose not to get married. If you were party to a de facto relationship and have since separated, be sure to contact your lawyer and learn about the types of relief that are available to you.