One of the issues parties face following a separation is what weight should be given to initial contributions compared with contributions over the length of a marriage, especially a long marriage?
Initial contributions made by a party will carry more weight where the relationship was of a short duration. As a general rule, the Family Court will view relationships of less than 5 years as a “short” relationship. In long relationships, the Court has often taken the view that the initial contributions of the parties have eroded over the course of the relationship and will carry less weight, particularly when weighed against the financial and non-financial contributions during the relationship.
This issue was considered in a recent case before the court where the parties’ relationship was one of fourteen years. In this case the husband had been a farmer his whole life and had brought into the relationship farming assets and other interest in excess of $500,000. At the commencement of the relationship the wife had about $49,000 in assets.
During the relationship the husband inherited from his father an interest in farming properties and cash worth about $2,000,000. The wife also inherited about $49,000 from a family member.
The Court deemed the non-financial contributions of the parties to be equal during the relationship as the husband undertook the physical labour associated with the farm while the wife undertook a greater home maker role and cared for the parties’ three children.
Taking into account the significant contributions of the husband, the court awarded 18% to the wife and 82% to the husband. The Court then considered a number of other factors including the husband’s greater earning capacity and awarded the wife an additional adjustment of 10%.
Seeking experienced Family Law advice is essential. The Law Society of WA has an accreditation process to formally recognise family law practitioners who have a high level of competency in their field and these practitioners are referred to as accredited family law specialists.