Long term marriage and property division

For a long term marriage, the approach to division of property between the parties is generally different from the approach taken
with a short term marriage.  In other blogs, we have looked at the factors that the law takes in to account in order to determine what division of property should apply in the particular circumstances of a former couple. You will see from those blogs that those
factors include a consideration of:

  • What comprises the assets and liabilities available for division between parties;
  • What has been the financial and nonfinancial contributions of the parties;
  • What are the future needs of each of the parties; and
  • What is just and equitable in the circumstances of the parties.

Do you need advice concerning what is your property entitlement at law (whether you have been in a long term marriage or a short term relationship) or regards any other family law issue? Contact our experienced Brisbane divorce lawyers or divorce lawyers Brisbane Northside or call now (07 3506 3651) for .  We provide free family law advice during our initial call with us. We also provide a fixed fee consultation when you first meet with us and in many cases, fixed fee is available for work that you wish us to undertake for you. You are also welcome to read on to see how the family court recently dealt with property division in a long term marriage………

Recent Case on long term marriage & property division

When considering the effect of a long term marriage on family law property division, a useful case is the decision in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia in December 2018 in Tamaris & Tamaris [2018] FCCA 3696. In that case, His Honour Judge Wilson considered competing proposals for the division of property where the parties had been involved in a long term marriage of some 31 years duration.

In the case, the parties had amassed a property pool exceeding $6,000,000 in value over the course of their long term marriage.

The Wife argued that the assets should be divided on a 50/50 basis and not in the manner proposed by the
husband which was a 60/40 division in his favour.  That parties were in agreement that their nonfinancial contributions were effectively equal. However, the husband maintained that he had made a significant initial financial contribution.

While His Honour Judge Wilson recognised that the husband had brought assets to the marriage of greater value than those initially
contributed by the wife, the judge said that over the period of 31 years of this long term marriage, the disparity of contributions however became of less significance.  His Honour noted that “intangible non-financial contributions often assume a degree of
importance and over many years of any given marriage…. the importance of any original disparity” reduces with the passage of time.

His Honour referred to the decision of the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia in Pierce & Pierce (1998)FamCA 74 .  In that case, the Full Court found that the trial judge in that case was in error in assessing initial contributions to arrive at a percentage split of 45% to the wife and 55% to the husband.  The parties in that case had cohabited together for a 10 year period.  The husband made a significant initial contribution to the acquisition of the matrimonial home by applying funds that he had at the time of the marriage. The husband in that case had also cared for and supported the children post separation. The Full Court held that the appropriate basis for a percentage division of  assets in that case was 70/30 in favour of the husband.

Pierce & Pierce distinguished

Although His Honour Judge Wilson did not disagree with the Full Court decision in Pierce & Pierce, His Honour drew a distinction between the case before him and that case. Judge Wilson remarked that, unlike in Pierce, the case before him involved a long term marriage. The initially disproportionate contribution by the husband in the case before him was considered. However, Judge Wilson said that he was also required to weigh the use made by the parties of that contribution and to weigh that initial contribution against the wife’s later contributions.

His Honour said that, “Whatever the initial disparity in contributions the asset base increased very considerably over 31
years, both parties contributing essentially equally. While the initial contribution must be recognised as unequal, its disparity did not amount to a 10% differential. In my view the inequality of initial contributions could equitably and justly support a division on a percentage split of 55% in favour of the husband and 45% in favour of the wife. I do not agree that a 60% division is just and equitable. Equally, the 70% division of assets ordered in Pierce & Pierce was based on a vastly shorter marriage”.

Outcome of decision in Tamaris & Tamaris

In the case before His Honour Judge Wilson, over the period of a long term marriage, financial and non-financial contributions by both parties had been significant. The parties had also enjoyed the mutual benefit had from the substantial increases in real property values over the period of the long term marriage. His Honour concluded that a division of 55/45 in  favour of the husband was just and equitable in the circumstances.

Contact us or call now (07 3506 3651) to speak to one of our divorce lawyers Brisbane or divorce lawyers North Brisbane.

We can advise you on any area of family law, including what you may expect in property division whether you have been in a long term marriage or a short term relationship. At LGM Family Law, our family law solicitors pride themselves on offering a friendly, professional service where you can expect to obtain effective and practical family law advice.

This blog provides information only and is not a substitute for legal advice.