In a recent case heard by the Full Court of the Family Court, Chancellor & McCoy, a same sex couple who were in a de facto relationship for 27 years were not required to divide their property after separation. The Court found it was not “just and equitable” to make property settlement Orders.
During the relationship the parties both acquired and maintained separate property. At the end of their relationship one partner had assets worth more than double the value of the assets owned by her former partner. The partner with assets of lesser value appealed the decision of Judge Turner in the Federal Circuit Court which dismissed her application for a property division. Her appeal to the Full Court of the Family Court was unsuccessful.
The main reasons for the Full Court’s decision are as follows:
- The parties did not intermingle finances during the relationship, they had no joint bank accounts, they each remained responsible for their own debts;
- The contributions they each made to the other’s property did not improve the value of the property;
- They used any earnings they received as they wished and were not accountable to each other;
- They made no financial decisions together;
- They did not provide for each other in the event of their deaths;
- No future plans or goals were made;
- Although they lived in a home owned by one partner, the other made a modest periodic payment for this.
If you are in a de facto relationship and essentially lead separate financial lives, you may walk away with all that you own after a separation. But, as with this case, each matter is unique and specialist family advice should be sought.
You can seek advice at any stage of your relationship if you are looking to protect your assets or understand your entitlements.