an initial contribution in a short de facto relationship was given significant weight given the lack of "off-setting" contributions by the other party during the relationship.
In this case, the parties cohabited for 5 years. At the commencement of the relationship, the wife had assets and an interest in a discretionary trust valued at approximately $14.5 million. She also had control over a group of companies. The husband was bankrupt. Over time, changes occurred to the structure of the wife's companies and their underlying assets. After separation, shares in one company sold for $45 million. At the date of hearing, the adjusted net assets of the group were valued at over $65.6 million.
The trial judge made adverse findings in respect of the husband's credit and found that whilst the husband had contributed to the value of the companies by working on some properties owned by them, his alleged contributions were over inflated. She held that when all considerations were weighed, contributions by the parties overwhelmingly favoured the wife.
Her Honour noted the "more usual" way of expressing contribution findings as a percentage, but said the process was not obligatory. Her Honour concluded: "It can be expressed as a monetary sum. As I assess it, this would be recognized by apportioning to the husband the sum of $1 million". In addition, the wife was ordered to release the husband from any debt owing by the husband to any company controlled by the wife in the amount of just under $2.5 million.
The husband appealed the trial judge's assessment of his contributions as a monetary figure. He asserted that he had contributed to the appreciation of assets and that the wife had not contributed any greater than him in this regard. The husband submitted that the appropriate adjustment to reflect his contributions was 16.8% of the total property pool. The husband's appeal was dismissed. The Full Court found that the trial judge's decision was within the reasonable ambit of her discretion.
Their Honours said:
"In the circumstances of this case, it was well open to find that it was inappropriate and/or artificial to attempt to evaluate the actual contributions of the husband as a percentage of the large pool of assets which were sourced exclusively from the wife's sole pre-marriage assets, maintained and improved significantly by her during the marriage, and substantially increased post separation as a result of the sale, engineered by the wife, of a company to another enterprise."
Disclaimer : This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice. It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer.