In a recent appeal to the Family Court, it was determined that there is no binding rule for determining “special contributions” to a relationship. The Court decided that a wealthy couple should share their assets equally, despite the husband claiming that his special skills meant that he should have 70% of the assets.

The parties had been married for 29 years and both brought to the relationship very little wealth. During the relationship, the parties established a construction company and relied on the husband’s skills as a tradesman. The wife was engaged in some aspects of the company as a director and shareholder but her primary responsibilities were as a homemaker and parent to the parties’ three children.

The original decision of the Court provided for a 60/40 division in favour of the husband on the grounds that his contributions were greater than the wife’s pre-separation. On appeal the wife submitted that the trial judge erred in the division of property and contended that a 50/50 division should be applied to the assets of the parties. The husband’s cross-appeal was for a division of 70/30 basis in his favour due to his “special contributions” to their construction business.

In determining the appeal, the Court relied on the earlier authority of Hoffman & Hoffman which stated that in each case the contributions made by the parties must be evaluated in the context of the facts particular to the case.

The Court emphasised that neither the wife’s contributions as homemaker and parent nor the husband’s contributions to the business were to be considered less important than the other. The Court stated that to place greater weight on the contributions made by the husband in his sphere does not do justice to the wife’s contributions in her various capacities.

As such, the Court found both parties to have made an equal contribution to the marriage and an order was made for equal division of assets.

For more information contact:

Dan Simmonds
Managing Principal
Harwood Andrews
T: 03 5226 8513
E: dsimmonds@harwoodandrews.com.au

Linton Drever
Principal
Harwood Andrews
T: 03 5226 8553
E: ldrever@harwoodandrews.com.au

Ashleigh Wall
Senior Associate
Harwood Andrews
T: 03 5226 8559
E: awall@harwoodandrews.com.au

Laura van Stekelenburg
Lawyer
Harwood Andrews
T: 03 5225 5205
E: lvanstekelenburg@harwoodandrews.com.au