The Full Court of the Family Court of Australia in the matter of Grady & Chilcott (2020) recently considered whether the de facto wife of an 8-year de facto relationship, was entitled to receive a property settlement from her former de facto husband.
Whilst you might think that being in a relationship for a period of time and identifying as de facto couple entitles to you a property settlement (division of property), Grady & Chilcott explores circumstances where it would not be ‘just and equitable’ to make any property settlement Order. The parties merely keep what they each own.
Background and Factors
The following was considered by the Family Court when deciding not to award the de facto wife any of the de facto husband’s assets:
- The parties were in a de facto relationship from 2005 to 2013;
- The wife commenced property settlement proceedings in 2014 in the Federal Circuit Court;
- At the commencement of the relationship, the husband owned four (4) properties and ran a successful business. The wife made no financial contributions to the acquisition of any of the properties nor did she contribute to the parties’ living expenses (other than groceries);
- During the relationship the husband purchased another property with his own funds and the wife made no meaningful contribution to the acquisition, maintenance or improvement to the property;
- During the relationship the wife was in paid employment and was able to save the entirety of her income which allowed her to purchase properties in another country where her family lived rent free;
- The wife made the higher homemaker contributions than the husband;
- The wife stole $141,262.98 from the husband and was charged with offences relating to this. She was ordered to pay the sum of $58,286 in compensation to the husband and an additional $5,000 to the husband’s mother (which she also stole). Neither payments had been made;
- The husband liked to gamble however as he did not have a credit card, he would borrow money from the wife against her credit card. These amounts were ultimately repaid. The wife’s waste argument failed;
- The parties kept their finances separate throughout the relationship;
- At the time of the Trial before the primary Judge, the husband had ceased working and his business had closed down;
- At the time of the Trial before the primary Judge, the wife had ceased working as her employment had been terminated due to the criminal charges.
At both first instance and on Appeal, the Court found that it was not ‘just and equitable’ to make any adjustment of the parties’ property interests.
The primary Judge found that while the wife purchased groceries and lent the husband money when they went out (which was later repaid), the respondent had made the overwhelming financial contributions to the relationship.
The Trial Judge made Orders that the parties each keep their own assets and superannuation. This was upheld on Appeal and the wife was ordered to pay the husband’s legal costs in the amount of $18,506.94.
This reminds us that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to determining what property settlement entitlements one may be entitled to, if any. Simply because a de facto relationship existed, and the length of the relationship was some 8 years, this does not automatically lead to or compel the parties to negotiate and agree on a property settlement division.
If you have any concerns about your property settlement matters, please contact us today on (07) 3532 3826 to arrange a fixed fee initial consultation with Rebecca Parry, Director and Candace Watkins, Associate, here at Parry Coates Family Law. We are available in person or via Zoom to speak with you.