Whether you have been married or in a de facto relationship for a relatively short period of time, it can still be difficult to workout how to divide your assets. In the case of Grunseth & Wighton  FedCFamC1A the Court took a close look at the division of assets after a short relationship.
The parties started living together in 2013 and separated in 2016 however they were separated under the one roof until 2019, therefore it was considered a de facto relationship of 3 years. There were no children of the relationship, however there was a dispute over who was to retain the party’s dog.
The trial judge made orders for the assets to be divided 52.5% to the wife and 47.5% to the husband. The wife appealed that decision on the basis that she had contributed over half of the value of the property to be divided and had made other contributions which afforded her a higher allocation of the property.
The wife was successful on her application appealing the original decision, the basis on which the wife was successful is detailed below.
In 2004 met and started to develop a relationship however they were not considered to be in a de facto relationship until 2013 as prior to that the dynamic of the relationship did not meet the definition of a de facto relationship in accordance with the Family Law Act 1975.
It was in 2013 that they purchased a property together for $1,040,000 which was funded by a payment of $716,423 from the wife, $320,000 from the husband and a $99,223 mortgage secured over the property. The parties reflected their contributions in the percentage in which the parties owned the property on title, being 70% in the wife’s name and 30% in the husband’s name.
In 2015 and 2017 the husband received inheritances in the total sum of $878,211 and used the funds to pay the balance owing on the mortgage of $43,846 and paid the wife $160,000 to the wife. The husband contended that the payments made to the mortgage and the wife equated to him having a 50% interest in the property. The wife did not accept the husband contention as it did not include the increased value in the property and did not equate to equal ownership in the property. The wife had also made greater non-financial contributions and some allowance for her lesser total future earning capacity.
The wife’s primary contention was that her overall financial contributions to the relationship were 52.79% of the current property to be divided, on that basis alone the outcome of the trial was untenable as it was lower than her accepted financial contributions. Further, the division of the assets did not acknowledge the wife’s non-financial contributions and the adjustment for the difference in earing capacity. Given these factors the wife was successful on her application for the appeal. On a strict assessment of the financial contributions alone, the wife should have received more than 52%.
The Court then considered the issue of ownership of the parties Spoodle, Roxy who both parties wished to have in their care. Roxy was purchased by the wife and registered in her name. The trial judge ordered that Roxy be transferred to the husband and Roxy live with him. The appellant judge confirmed the Courts position that the emotional attachment to an animal is not relevant and pets are treated as property to be divided between the parties.
The difficulty arises if the animal has little to no financial value, however given that the matter was referred for re-trial the appellant Court was not required to make a determination on this issue. It is important to note how pets are treated by the Court in the event of a dispute. If possible, retain the animal when you separate however be mindful that if a dispute arises the financial contributions to the animal will be the primary consideration.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice before taking any course of action*.
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