If you’re thinking of sharing your bed with someone sometime soon, it might be best to stop and think about precisely what you may be signing up for.

Since 1 March 2009 the Family Law Act has applied not only to married couples, but also to people living together in a de facto relationship. That means you don’t have to be legally married to someone in order to become entitled to a share of their assets if and when the relationship breaks down. If a court interprets the union between two people to be in the nature of a de facto relationship, the property of both parties will be up for grabs when the final curtain falls. And that can sometimes lead to somewhat unexpected consequences.

In a recent Federal Circuit Court case a middle-aged sex worker sued one of her clients for a big chunk of his life savings on the basis that their regular sexual trysts had become a lot more than just cold hard monkey business. It started out innocently enough – money for sex, no questions asked, and no complications. But as the months and years rolled by, the pair became so friendly she began treating her favourite client to regular freebies, and even cut him a special weekend discount rate. In return he took her away on a string of holidays together, and the lines between business and pleasure became decidedly blurred.

When they finally terminated their arrangement after more than a decade of dirty dealings, she applied to the courts for a division of his property under the de facto provisions of the Family Law Act. And it was a near-run thing. The Judge found she had made contributions to the union, and their arrangement showed some mutual commitment to a shared life, suggesting a de facto relationship. But in the end, because they had remained financially independent of one another, and socialised together relatively rarely, he ruled the relationship didn’t enliven the de facto provisions of the Family Law Act.

The respondent ultimately retained his assets, but only after some very anxious moments. Looks like there really is no such thing as free sex.

Nyst Legal – Family Law