Family Court rejects special skills contributions

Family Court rejects special skills contributions

By Angus Edwards

The Full Family Court recently ruled against any notion of “special skills contributions” made by individual parties in Family Law property adjustments.  In fact, in the decision of Kane and Kane,  it was determined that the trial judge had made an error in the original assessment of the contributions of the parties, and that the claim of ‘special skill contributions’ could not be upheld.

Background to the case

In Kane and Kane, the husband (who had no investment training or qualifications) made a decision to invest the superannuation of both parties in certain shares while they were married.  Over a period of two years his decision proved to be very profitable for the couple, and the investment grew from $1million to $3million during that time. 

When the couple separated, the Judge hearing the initial property matter assessed the contributions of each party disproportionately, based upon what he considered to be the “special skills” of the husband when he was making those investment choices.

When the decision was appealed, the Full Family Court found that, rather than having any special skill, the husband had simply taken a calculated risk with the superannuation funds, which fortunately had gone in their favour.  The Court was also of the view that this, and other contributions of parties, could be influenced by external factors.

What was the outcome?

The first trial judge had divided the parties’ assets, including the superannuation, allocating 63% to the husband and 37% to the wife.  When this decision was appealed, Deputy Chief Judge Faulks found that the disproportionate division of property in favour of the husband “could not be justified”.

The effect of the final decision is that no form of contribution will be regarded as more significant than another.  The Court must consider all forms of contribution to a marriage or relationship, whether they be financial, non-financial or as home-maker or parent.  The message from this is that the contributions made by a party as homemaker or parent should not be undervalued either.

This decision will see the contributions of parties in cases where significant wealth has been built up during the relationship being assessed more equally.

For confidential advice on your Family Law property or parenting matter contact Angus Edwards at Kenny Spring Solicitors on ph: 02 6331 2911 or email him at [email protected].


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