A recent Australian case has shown that even for very long term relationships, there is no guaranteed right to property settlement.
It is wrong to assume that a person is entitled to a family law property settlement following the breakdown of their relationship, even where it was a very long term relationship.
The Full Court of the Family Court of Australia in a judgement delivered in December 2016 dismissed an appeal against the decision of a trial judge that it would not be just and equitable to make any order for property settlement.
The case involved a 27 year relationship. By the time that the parties separated, one of the parties had assets and superannuation worth more than double those of the other party.
The trial judge had found that the parties conducted their affairs in such a way that neither party would or could have acquired an interest in the property owned by the other. Various reasons for that were given by the trial judge including that:
- There was no intermingling of the party’s respective finances;
- The parties did not have a joint bank account;
- Each party had purchased property in their own name;
- Each party was responsible for their own debts;
- Each party could use their earnings as they chose without explaining or accounting to the other party;
- There was a complete lack of joint financial decision making;
- The parties did not share information with each other as to their individual financial decision making or their respective financial situations;
- Neither party had taken steps to ensure that the other would receive property or superannuation in the event of death.
The Full Court said that the trial judge had made no findings that would point to any express and implicit assumptions that a party would ultimately share in the other’s property or that one would benefit on the death of the other.
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