In law and government, de facto (/deɪ ˈfæktoʊ/ or /di
ˈfæktoʊ/; Latin: de facto, "in fact"; Latin
pronunciation: [deː ˈfaktoː]), describes practices that exist
in reality, even if not legally recognised by official laws.
It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast
with de jure ("in law"), which refers to things that happen according
to law. Unofficial customs that are widely accepted are sometimes
called de facto standards.
1.1 Segregation (during the Civil Rights era in the United States)
1.3 National languages
2 Other uses
2.2 Relationships not recognised outside Australia
2.3 Non-marital relationship contract
2.4 Family law – custody
3 Other uses of the term
4 See also
Segregation (during the Civil Rights era in the United States)
De facto racial discrimination and segregation in the United States
during the 1950s and 1960s was simply discrimination that was not
segregation by law (de jure).
Jim Crow laws, which were enacted in the 1870s, brought legal racial
segregation against black Americans residing in the American South.
These laws were legally ended in 1964 by the Civil Rights Act of
Continued practices of expecting black people to ride in the back of
buses or to step aside onto the street if not enough room was present
for a white person and "separate but equal" facilities are instances
of de facto segregation. The
NAACP fought for the de jure law to be
upheld and for de facto segregation practices to be abolished.
Public schools in any region of the US may be de facto racially
segregated (or nearly so) simply because they are in neighbourhoods
whose residents are all, or nearly all, of one race (such as urban
ghettos or conversely, affluent suburbs).
This is opposed to de jure segregation, which prevailed in the
American South and border states through the 1960s. Under de jure
segregation, the law provided entirely separate schools for black and
white students, which they legally had to attend, despite in many
cases actually living closer to a school designated for the other
race. In many cases, the schools for black students were older, had
fewer resources of all kinds, and paid their teachers less than in
De facto standard
A de facto standard is a standard (formal or informal) that has
achieved a dominant position by tradition, enforcement, or market
dominance. It has not necessarily received formal approval by way of a
standardisation process, and may not have an official standards
Technical standards are usually voluntary, like
ISO 9000 requirements,
but may be obligatory, enforced by government norms, like drinking
water quality requirements. The term "de facto standard" is used for
both: to contrast obligatory standards (also known as "de jure
standards"); or to express a dominant standard, when there is more
than one proposed standard.
In social sciences, a voluntary standard that is also a de facto
standard, is a typical solution to a coordination problem.
Several countries, including Australia, Japan, the
United Kingdom and
the United States, have a de facto national language but no de jure
official national language.
Some countries have a de facto national language in addition to an
official language. In
Morocco the official language is
Arabic, but an additional de facto language is French. In New Zealand,
New Zealand Sign Language are de jure official languages,
while English is a de facto official language.
Russian was the de facto official language of the central government
and, to a large extent, republican governments of the former Soviet
Union, but was not declared de jure state language until 1990. A
short-lived law effected April 24, 1990, installed Russian as the sole
de jure official language of the Union.
A de facto government is a government wherein all the attributes of
sovereignty have, by usurpation, been transferred from those who had
been legally invested with them to others, who, sustained by a power
above the forms of law, claim to act and do really act in their
In politics, a de facto leader of a country or region is one who has
assumed authority, regardless of whether by lawful, constitutional, or
legitimate means; very frequently, the term is reserved for those
whose power is thought by some faction to be held by unlawful,
unconstitutional, or otherwise illegitimate means, often because it
had deposed a previous leader or undermined the rule of a current one.
De facto leaders sometimes do not hold a constitutional office and may
exercise power informally.
Not all dictators are de facto rulers. For example, Augusto Pinochet
Chile initially came to power as the chairperson of a military
junta, which briefly made him de facto leader of Chile, but he later
amended the nation's constitution and made himself president for life,
making him the formal and legal ruler of Chile. Similarly, Saddam
Hussein's formal rule of
Iraq is often recorded as beginning in 1979,
the year he assumed the Presidency of Iraq. However, his de facto rule
of the nation began earlier: during his time as vice president, he
exercised a great deal of power at the expense of the elderly Ahmed
Hassan al-Bakr, the de jure president.
In Argentina, the successive military coups that overthrew
constitutional governments installed de facto governments in
1930–1932, 1943–1946, 1955–1958, 1966–1973 and 1976–1983,
the last of which combined the powers of the presidential office with
those of the National Congress. The subsequent legal analysis of the
validity of such actions led to the formulation of a doctrine of the
de facto governments, a case law (precedential) formulation which
essentially said that the actions and decrees of past de facto
governments, although not rooted in legal legitimacy when taken,
remained binding until and unless such time as they were revoked or
repealed de jure by a subsequent legitimate government.
That doctrine was nullified by the constitutional reform of 1994.
Article 36 states:
(1) This Constitution shall rule even when its observance is
interrupted by acts of force against the institutional order and the
democratic system. These acts shall be irreparably null.
(2) Their authors shall be punished with the penalty foreseen in
Section 29, disqualified in perpetuity from holding public offices and
excluded from the benefits of pardon and commutation of sentences.
(3) Those who, as a consequence of these acts, were to assume the
powers foreseen for the authorities of this Constitution or for those
of the provinces, shall be punished with the same penalties and shall
be civil and criminally liable for their acts. The respective actions
shall not be subject to prescription.
(4) All citizens shall have the right to oppose resistance to those
committing the acts of force stated in this section.
(5) He who, procuring personal enrichment, incurs in serious
fraudulent offense against the Nation shall also attempt subversion
against the democratic system, and shall be disqualified to hold
public office for the term specified by law.
(6) Congress shall enact a law on public ethics which shall rule the
exercise of public office.
In 1526, after seizing power
Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi
Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi made his
brother, Umar Din, the de jure
Sultan of the Adal Sultanate. Ahmad,
however, was in all practice the de facto Sultan. Some other
notable true de facto leaders have been
Deng Xiaoping of the People's
Republic of China and General
Manuel Noriega of Panama. Both of these
men exercised nearly all control over their respective nations for
many years despite not having either legal constitutional office or
the legal authority to exercise power. These individuals are today
commonly recorded as the "leaders" of their respective nations;
recording their legal, correct title would not give an accurate
assessment of their power. Terms like strongman or dictator are often
used to refer to de facto rulers of this sort. In the Soviet Union,
Vladimir Lenin incapacitated from a stroke in 1923, Joseph
Stalin—who, as General Secretary of the Communist Party had the
power to appoint anyone he chose to top party positions—eventually
emerged as leader of the Party and the legitimate government. Until
1936 Soviet Constitution officially declared the Party "...the
vanguard of the working people", thus legitimising Stalin's
leadership, Stalin ruled the USSR as the de facto dictator.
Another example of a de facto ruler is someone who is not the actual
ruler but exerts great or total influence over the true ruler, which
is quite common in monarchies. Some examples of these de facto rulers
Empress Dowager Cixi
Empress Dowager Cixi of China (for son Tongzhi and nephew Guangxu
Emperors), Prince Alexander Menshikov (for his former lover Empress
Catherine I of Russia),
Cardinal Richelieu of France (for Louis XIII)
Marie Caroline of Naples and Sicily
Marie Caroline of Naples and Sicily (for her husband King
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies).
The term "de facto head of state" is sometimes used to describe the
office of a governor general in the Commonwealth realms, since a
holder of that office has the same responsibilities in their country
as the de jure head of state (the sovereign) does within the United
Westminster system of government, executive authority is often
split between a de jure executive authority of a head of state and a
de facto executive authority of a prime minister and cabinet who
implement executive powers in the name of the de jure executive
authority. In the United Kingdom, the Sovereign is the de jure
executive authority, even though executive decisions are made by the
indirectly elected Prime Minister and her Cabinet on the Sovereign's
behalf, hence the term Her Majesty's Government.
The de facto boundaries of a country are defined by the area that its
government is actually able to enforce its laws in, and to defend
against encroachments by other countries that may also claim the same
territory de jure. The
Durand Line is an example of a de facto
boundary. As well as cases of border disputes, de facto boundaries may
also arise in relatively unpopulated areas in which the border was
never formally established or in which the agreed border was never
surveyed and its exact position is unclear. The same concepts may also
apply to a boundary between provinces or other subdivisions of a
A de facto monopoly is a system where many suppliers of a product are
allowed, but the market is so completely dominated by one that the
others might as well not exist. The related terms oligopoly and
monopsony are similar in meaning and this is the type of situation
that antitrust laws are intended to eliminate.
A domestic partner outside marriage is referred to as a de facto
husband or wife by some authorities. In
Australia and New Zealand,
the phrase "de facto" by itself has become a colloquial term for one's
domestic partner. In Australian law, it is the legally recognized,
committed relationship of a couple living together (opposite-sex or
De facto unions are defined in the federal Family Law
De facto relationships provide couples who are living
together on a genuine domestic basis with many of the same rights and
benefits as married couples. Two people can become a de facto couple
by entering into a registered relationship (i.e.: civil union or
domestic partnership) or by being assessed as such by the Family Court
or Federal Circuit Court. Couples who are living together are
generally recognised as a de facto union and thus able to claim many
of the rights and benefits of a married couple, even if they have not
registered or officially documented their relationship, although
this may vary by state. It has been noted that it is harder to prove
de facto relationship status, particularly in the case of the death of
one of the partners.
In April 2014, a federal court judge ruled that a heterosexual couple
who had a child and lived together for 13 years were not in a de facto
relationship and thus the court had no jurisdiction to divide up their
property under family law following a request for separation. In his
ruling, the judge stated "de facto relationship(s) may be described as
‘marriage like’ but it is not a marriage and has significant
differences socially, financially and emotionally."
The above sense of de facto is related to the relationship between
common law traditions and formal (statutory, regulatory, civil) law,
and common-law marriages. Common law norms for settling disputes in
practical situations, often worked out over many generations to
establishing precedent, are a core element informing decision making
in legal systems around the world. Because its early forms originated
in England in the Middle Ages, this is particularly true in
Anglo-American legal traditions and in former colonies of the British
Empire, while also playing a role in some countries that have mixed
systems with significant admixtures of civil law.
Relationships not recognised outside Australia
Due to Australian federalism, de facto partnerships can only be
legally recognised whilst the couple lives within a state in
Australia. This is because the power to legislate on de facto matters
relies on referrals by States to the Commonwealth in accordance with
Section 51(xxxvii) of the Australian Constitution, where it states the
new federal law can only be applied back within a state. There
must be a state nexus between the de facto relationship itself and the
If an Australian de facto couple moves out of a state, they do not
take the state with them and the new federal law is tied to the
territorial limits of a state. The legal status and rights and
obligations of the de facto or unmarried couple would then be
recognised by the laws of the country where they are ordinarily
resident. See the section on Family Court of
Australia for further
explanation on jurisdiction on de facto relationships.
This is unlike marriage and "matrimonial causes" which are recognised
by sections 51(xxi) and (xxii) of the Constitution of Australia
and internationally by marriage law and conventions, Hague Convention
on Marriages (1978).
Non-marital relationship contract
A de facto relationship is comparable to non-marital relationship
contracts (sometimes called "palimony agreements") and certain limited
forms of domestic partnership, which are found in many jurisdictions
throughout the world.
A de facto Relationship is not comparable to common-law marriage,
which is a fully legal marriage that has merely been contracted in an
irregular way (including by habit and repute). Only nine U.S. states
and the District of Columbia still permit common-law marriage; but
common law marriages are otherwise valid and recognised by and in all
jurisdictions whose rules of comity mandate the recognition of any
marriage that was legally formed in the jurisdiction where it was
Family law – custody
De facto joint custody is comparable to the joint legal
decision-making authority a married couple has over their child(ren)
in many jurisdictions (Canada as an example). Upon separation, each
parent maintains de facto joint custody, until such time a court order
awards custody, either sole or joint.
Other uses of the term
In finance, the
World Bank has a pertinent definition:
A "de facto government" comes into, or remains in, power by means not
provided for in the country's constitution, such as a coup d'état,
revolution, usurpation, abrogation or suspension of the
A de facto state of war is a situation where two nations are actively
engaging, or are engaged, in aggressive military actions against the
other without a formal declaration of war.
In engineering, de facto technology is a system in which the
intellectual property and know-how is privately held. Usually only the
owner of the technology manufactures the related equipment. Meanwhile,
a standard technology consists of systems that have been publicly
released to a certain degree so that anybody can manufacture equipment
supporting the technology. For instance, in cell phone communications,
CDMA1X is a de facto technology, while GSM is a standard technology.
List of Latin phrases
^ Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary. S.v. "de
facto." Retrieved January 12 2018 from
^ "de facto". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
^ See I. 3. "de".
Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary (2nd ed.). Oxford
University Press. 1989.
^ Harper, Douglas. "de facto". Online Etymology Dictionary.
^ Civil Rights Act of 1964
^ Woodward, C. Vann; McFeely, William S. (2001). The Strange Career of
Jim Crow. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 7.
^ King, Desmond (1995). Separate and Unequal:
Black Americans and the
US Federal Government. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 3.
^ Edna Ullmann-Margalit: The Emergence of Norms, Oxford Un. Press,
1977. (or Clarendon Press 1978)
^ "USSR Law "On the Languages of the Peoples of USSR"" (in Russian).
April 24, 1990. Archived from the original on 2009-06-18.
^ 30 Am Jur 181. Law Dictionary, James A. Ballentine, Second Edition,
1948, p. 345.
^ "Aḥmad Grāñ". Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved
^ Walker Lenore E. "Battered Woman Syndrome. Empirical Findings."
Violence and Exploitation Against Women and Girls, November 2006, p.
^ Gulliver, Katrina (31 January 2003). "
De facto is a defective
description – just say living in sin". Sydney Morning Herald.
Retrieved 29 August 2016. I am curious about the use of the term "de
facto". It is an adjective meaning "in fact" – as opposed to "in
law". It is used by Australian journalists when describing (other
people's) domestic partners. I have never heard anyone say "my de
facto". It is a brief way of saying "living with someone but not
actually married". Despite being an adjective, it never seems to be
used with a noun, but on its own...
^ "What are your rights when a de facto relationship ends?". ABC News.
22 June 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2017.
Family Law Act 1975
Family Law Act 1975 – Sect. 4AA". austlii.edu.au.
De facto Relationships". Family Court of Australia.
De facto Relationships". The Law Society of New South Wales.
^ Elphick, Liam. "Do same-sex couples really have the same rights as
married couples?". SBS News. Retrieved 15 September 2017.
De facto couples have differences to married counterparts, judge
says". The Australian. 23 April 2014.
^ French, Justice (Feb 2003). "The Referral of State Powers
Cooperative Federalism lives?". Western
Australia Law Review. .
^ Thomas (2007) 233 CLR 307,  (Kirby J).
^ See sections 90RG, 90SD and 90SK, section 90RA, of the Family Law
^ Section 51, Australian Constitution
^ Hague Convention on Marriages 1978
What you should know about Family Law in Ontario
^ "OP 7.30 – Dealings with De Facto Governments". Operational
Manual. The World Bank. July 2001. Retrieved