''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, whether or not they are officially recognized by laws or other formal norms. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with ''
de jure In law and government, ''de jure'' ( ; , "by law") describes practices that are legally recognized, regardless of whether the practice exists in reality. In contrast, ("in fact") describes situations that exist in reality, even if not legall ...
'' ("by law"), which refers to things that happen according to official law, regardless of whether the practice exists in reality.


jurisprudence Jurisprudence, or legal theory, is the theoretical study of the propriety of law. Scholars of jurisprudence seek to explain the nature of law in its most general form and they also seek to achieve a deeper understanding of legal reasoning ...
, it mainly means "practiced, but not necessarily defined by law" or "practiced or is valid, but not officially established". Basically, this expression is opposed to the concept of "de jure" (which means "as defined by law") when it comes to law, management or
technology Technology is the application of knowledge to reach practical goals in a specifiable and reproducible way. The word ''technology'' may also mean the product of such an endeavor. The use of technology is widely prevalent in medicine, scien ...
(such as standards) in the case of creation, development or application of "without" or "against" instructions, but in accordance with "with practice". When legal situations are discussed, "de jure" means "expressed by law", while "de facto" means action or what is practiced. Similar expressions: "essentially", "unofficial", "in fact", "actually".

Technical standards

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 standardization process, and may not have an official standards document. Technical standards are usually voluntary, such as
ISO 9000 The ISO 9000 family is a set of five quality management systems (QMS) standards that help organizations ensure they meet customer and other stakeholder needs within statutory and regulatory requirements related to a product or service. ISO 90 ...
requirements, but may be obligatory, enforced by government norms, such as 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.Edna Ullmann-Margalit: ''The Emergence of Norms'', Oxford Un. Press, 1977. (or Clarendon Press 1978)

Government and culture

National languages

Several countries, including Australia, Japan, Mexico, the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
and the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 states, a federal district, five major unincorporated territori ...
, have a de facto national language but no official, de jure national language. Some countries have a de facto national language in addition to an official language. In Lebanon and
Morocco Morocco (),, ) officially the Kingdom of Morocco, is the westernmost country in the Maghreb region of North Africa. It overlooks the Mediterranean Sea to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and has land borders with Algeria t ...
, the official language is Arabic, but an additional de facto language is also French. In New Zealand, the official languages are Māori and
New Zealand Sign Language New Zealand Sign Language or NZSL ( mi, te reo Turi) is the main language of the deaf community in New Zealand. It became an official language of New Zealand in April 2006 under the New Zealand Sign Language Act 2006. The purpose of the act was ...
; however, English is a third de facto language.
Russian Russian(s) refers to anything related to Russia, including: *Russians (, ''russkiye''), an ethnic group of the East Slavic peoples, primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries *Rossiyane (), Russian language term for all citizens and peo ...
was the de facto official language of the central government and, to a large extent,
republican Republican can refer to: Political ideology * An advocate of a republic, a type of government that is not a monarchy or dictatorship, and is usually associated with the rule of law. ** Republicanism, the ideology in support of republics or agains ...
governments of the former
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
, 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.

Governance and sovereignty

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 stead. In
politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations among individuals, such as the distribution of resources or status. The branch of social science that stud ...
, 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 Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte (, , , ; 25 November 1915 – 10 December 2006) was a Chilean general who ruled Chile from 1973 to 1990, first as the leader of the Military Junta of Chile from 1973 to 1981, being declared President of ...
of Chile initially came to power as the chairperson of a
military junta A military junta () is a government led by a committee of military leaders. The term ''junta'' means "meeting" or "committee" and originated in the national and local junta organized by the Spanish resistance to Napoleon's invasion of Spain in ...
, which briefly made him de facto leader of Chile, but he later amended the nation's constitution and made himself president until new elections were called, 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 Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr ' (1 July 1914 – 4 October 1982) was the fourth president of Iraq, from 17 July 1968 to 16 July 1979. He was a leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party and later the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party and ...
, 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: Two examples of de facto leaders are Deng Xiaoping of the People's Republic of China and general Manuel Noriega of
Panama Panama ( , ; es, link=no, Panamá ), officially the Republic of Panama ( es, República de Panamá), is a transcontinental country spanning the southern part of North America and the northern part of South America. It is bordered by Co ...
. 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 In the 19th century, the term strongman referred to an exhibitor of strength or similar circus performers who performed feats of strength. More recently, strength athletics, also known as strongman competitions, have grown in popularity. Thes ...
'' or ''dictator'' are often used to refer to de facto rulers of this sort. In the
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a List of former transcontinental countries#Since 1700, transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. A flagship communist state, ...
, after Vladimir Lenin was incapacitated from a stroke in 1923,
Joseph Stalin Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin (born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili; – 5 March 1953) was a Georgian revolutionary and Soviet political leader who led the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. He held power as General Secretar ...
—who, as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had the power to appoint anyone he chose to top party positions—eventually emerged as leader of the Party and the legitimate government. Until the 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 are
Empress Dowager Cixi Empress Dowager Cixi ( ; mnc, Tsysi taiheo; formerly romanised as Empress Dowager T'zu-hsi; 29 November 1835 – 15 November 1908), of the Manchu Yehe Nara clan, was a Chinese noblewoman, concubine and later regent who effectively controlled ...
of China (for son Tongzhi and nephew Guangxu Emperors), Prince Alexander Menshikov (for his former lover Empress
Catherine I Catherine I ( rus, Екатери́на I Алексе́евна Миха́йлова, Yekaterína I Alekséyevna Mikháylova; born , ; – ) was the second wife and empress consort of Peter the Great, and Empress Regnant of Russia from 1725 un ...
of Russia), Cardinal Richelieu of France (for Louis XIII), Queen Elisabeth of Parma (for her husband, King Philip V) and Queen Maria Carolina of Naples and Sicily (for her husband King
Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies Ferdinand I (12 January 1751 – 4 January 1825) was the King of the Two Sicilies from 1816, after his restoration following victory in the Napoleonic Wars. Before that he had been, since 1759, Ferdinand IV of the Kingdom of Naples and Ferdinand I ...
). 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 Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the European mainland, continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotlan ...
. In the 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 his Cabinet on the Sovereign's behalf, hence the term
His Majesty's Government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_est ...


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 dispute A territorial dispute or boundary dispute is a disagreement over the possession or control of land between two or more political entities. Context and definitions Territorial disputes are often related to the possession of natural resources s ...
s, 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 federal state.


In South Africa, although de jure apartheid formally began in 1948, de facto racist policies and practices discriminating against black South Africans, People of Colour, and Indians dated back decades before.Leach, Graham (1986). ''South Africa: no easy path to peace.'' Routledge. p. 68. De facto racial discrimination and
segregation Segregation may refer to: Separation of people * Geographical segregation, rates of two or more populations which are not homogenous throughout a defined space * School segregation * Housing segregation * Racial segregation, separation of humans ...
in the United States (outside of the South) until the 1950s and 1960s was simply discrimination that was 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 1964.

De facto state of war

Most commonly used to describe large scale conflicts of the 20th century, the phrase de facto state of war refers to 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 the 21st century, non-state actors and other non-nation state entities are also commonly involved in various conflicts.

Marriage and domestic partnerships


domestic partner A domestic partnership is a legal relationship, usually between couples, who live together and share a common domestic life, but are not married (to each other or to anyone else). People in domestic partnerships receive benefits that guarantee ...
marriage Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a culturally and often legally recognized union between people called spouses. It establishes rights and obligations between them, as well as between them and their children, and between ...
is referred to as a de facto husband or wife by some authorities.

In Australia

In Australia and New Zealand, the phrase "de facto" by itself has become a colloquial term for one's domestic partner. In
Australian law The legal system of Australia has multiple forms. It includes a written constitution, unwritten constitutional conventions, statutes, regulations, and the judicially determined common law system. Its legal institutions and traditions are substa ...
, it is the legally recognized, committed relationship of a couple living together (opposite-sex or same-sex). De facto unions are defined in the federal
Family Law Act 1975 The ''Family Law Act 1975'' (Cth) is an Act of the Parliament of Australia. It has 15 parts and is the primary piece of legislation dealing with divorce, parenting arrangements between separated parents (whether married or not), property separ ...
. 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, an Australian 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 nexus between the de facto relationship itself and the Australian state. 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. 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 Marriage law refers to the legal requirements that determine the validity of a marriage, and which vary considerably among countries. See also Marriage Act. Summary table Rights and obligations A marriage, by definition, bestows ...
and conventions, Hague Convention on Marriages (1978).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 contracted.

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.What you should know about Family Law in Ontario
''Attorney General''



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 other players are unable to compete or even survive. The related terms oligopoly and
monopsony In economics, a monopsony is a market structure in which a single buyer substantially controls the market as the major purchaser of goods and services offered by many would-be sellers. The microeconomic theory of monopsony assumes a single entity ...
are similar in meaning and this is the type of situation that antitrust laws are intended to eliminate.


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 constitution.

Intellectual property

In engineering, 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 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.


Examples of a de facto General Manager in sports include Syd Thrift who acted as the GM of the Baltimore Orioles between 1999 and 2002.
Bill Belichick William Stephen Belichick (; born April 16, 1952) is an American professional football coach who is the head coach of the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). Additionally, he exercises extensive authority over the Patri ...
, the head coach of the New England Patriots in the NFL does not hold the official title of GM, but serves as de facto general manager as he has control over drafting and other personnel decisions.

See also

* Fact * Unenforced law



{{DEFAULTSORT:De Facto Latin legal terminology Latin words and phrases