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“Fly-in-fly-out” work schedules are now common placements in a number of industries such as mining and construction. Are defacto relationships and couples involved in these work arrangements effected and can a property settlement claim be made when people are not living together all of the time?

In the matter of Cuan & Kostelac [2017] the primary judge determined a de facto relationship existed between the Respondent and the Applicant, who was a fly in fly out worker that spent 8 weeks at a time away from the Applicant’s home.

The primary judge found that a defacto relationship existed between April 2007 and late 2010 after taking into account a number of considerations. The fly in fly out worker lived at the Respondent’s premises, she would work away for a period of 6 weeks and then visit and stay with her children for a subsequent period of 2 weeks interstate. She had an arrangement with the Respondent that she would live at his flat rent free and in return she would look after him, provide housekeeping and help him to manage his money. This arrangement took place from approximately April 2007 until late 2010.

The primary judge considered the following characteristics of the parties arrangement:

  • The parties shared a common residence at the Respondent’s house from April 2007 to 2010.
  • A sexual relationship existed between the parties.
  • Between 2007 and 2010 there was significant intermingling of funds.
  • The fly in fly out worker had authority to operate the respondent’s bank accounts. Evidence showed that a total of $93,000 was transferred to the Applicant’s bank account over the course of the relationship and these funds were then used to reduce the mortgages over two properties she owned in another city.
  • The parties travelled overseas together on a number of occasions. The parties stayed in separate rooms when travelling except for one occasion when separate beds were arranged.
  • The parties presented attended social outings and events as a couple.

By considering the relationship as a whole and all of the factors listed above, the primary judge concluded that the parties were in a defacto relationship from April 2007 until late 2010.

The Applicant said that the parties became friends and later travelled overseas together but the relationship never moved beyond that. The Applicant appealed the primary judge’s decision that the parties were in a de facto relationship but the appeal was dismissed and the primary judge’s findings remained.