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Initial Asset Contributions Count

Family Law: 02 March 2020

In Horrigan the Full Court of the Family Court dismissed the Wife's appeal against the trial judge's division of the parties assets 78% to the Husband & 22% to the Wife and ordered the Wife to pay the Husband's costs. The judgement was handed down in February 2020.

At the time of the trial the husband was 64 and the wife 47. The wife was in receipt of maintenance from the husband and the parties had a 7 year old child who lived with the wife 9 days of each fortnight. The parties had lived together for 8 years.

The Trial judge found:

  • the asset pool at the time the parties commenced to live together was $1,700,000 of which the husband contributed $1,5000,000 & the wife $200,000 or 11.5%.
  • at the time of separation the asset pool was $3,650,000
  • the parties had contributed equally since they commence to live together and had each continued to do so up to and following separation
  • there should be an adjustment of 7% in favour of the wife for the matters detailed in Section 75(2) of the Family Law Act - these include the health of each party; their income and capacity to earn income & whether they have the care of a child of the parties.

In upholding the trial judge's decision the Full Court reminded us that the length of the relationship under consideration is a critical issue in considering what weight is to be given to the parties initial financial contributions in determining how the existing asset pool is to be split. Undoubtedly the weight diminishes over time, but with this 8 year relationship those initial contributions still had a marked impact on the outcome. This decision and the Full Court's refusal to overturn it, will take a few by surprise.

If you don't think your contributions to a marriage are being fairly recognized then you need our legal assistance. Contact Dylan Birch for more information.

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