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On the date of the application you must have been in a de-facto relationship for at least 12 months. The 12 month period can include periods where you were not physically together, as long as you were not living separately and apart on a permanent basis.

In this context, the only thing that is relevant is the relationship evidence at the time the application is made (although obviously you will continue to collect additional evidence for future use after you have lodged the application).

How much temporary separation is acceptable will depend on your overall relationship history and the quality of the evidence you will provide.

In your particular case I would count back from the date of the application to 21 December 2012, as long long as you have good evidence to cover that entire period including the months you have been apart. You need to provide strong evidence that the de-facto relationship has continued since you returned to Australia.

If you could find a way to spend some time together before you lodge the application, then that would probably be helpful.
 
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