YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE EMPLOYED TO HAVE CONTRIBUTED.

May 17, 2012

When it comes to De Facto separation, just because one partner was not earning an income does not mean they didn’t contribute to the relationship. A recent decision of the Court highlights the importance that is given to non-financial contributions made by one of the spouses.

On 1 July 2010 financial issues relating to the breakdown of De Facto relationships, which were previously handled by the District Court, were referred by South Australia to the Family Court of Australia. Where parties separated before that date both parties must agree to “opt in” to having the matter dealt with in the Family Court or otherwise the Domestic Partners (Property) Act still applies and the cases are heard in the District Court.

A recent decision of the Court highlights the importance that the courts under either scheme generally give to non-financial contributions made by one of the spouses. These non-financial contributions can be particularly important to determining issues relating to De Facto separation when the other spouse has been the primary income earner during the relationship.

In this case the Plaintiff had assisted the Defendant in the management of his business by preparing the profit and loss books and arranging the payment of bills associated with the business. This is one form of non-financial contribution that was considered by the Court in determining an appropriate division of the parties’ property. The Plaintiff was also given credit for the fact that she was primarily responsible for housekeeping, cooking and cleaning.

The case was a difficult one for the Court as the Defendant ultimately appeared unrepresented and defended himself at trial. As such he did not have the assistance of Legal Counsel to prepare and present his case. While the Court tried to avoid any bias towards the Plaintiff due to this it was inevitable that the Plaintiff’s case would appear to be better presented with the assistance of her Legal Counsel. While parties are entitled to represent themselves in Court it is not recommended that they do so as experienced Legal Counsel generally know how best to present a case and make arguments to support their client’s position.

The Plaintiff’s evidence about the length of the relationship and concerning contributions made by the parties was preferred by the Judge. The Defendant was unable to properly explain the additional drawing of monies on the parties’ loans since separation and as a result of this the Court awarded an additional amount of money to the Plaintiff.

Non-financial contributions can be particularly important to determining relationship matters when the other spouse has been the primary income earner during the relationship. It is not uncommon that one partner runs a business and the other assists with such tasks as bookkeeping for no direct payment.

If you need advice or assistance in relation to De Facto separation, matrimonial property or other family law related matters contact us and arrange to meet with an experienced family lawyer in Adelaide for an obligation free first consultation at Websters Lawyers. Websters Lawyers have specialist family lawyers with the skill and experience that you need to ensure that you secure the best outcome and to provide the right advice at a time you need it.

H, M v C, L [2012] SADC 44