Section 79 of the Family Law Act establishes the general
principles for a court to follow in order to settle financial
Whilst direct financial contributions to the relationship, such
as earnings, are a significant factor in determining the
contribution to the asset pool, so to are the non-financial, and
indirect, contributions of each party to the relationship.
The provisions of s 79(4), paragraphs (a) to (c) require the
court to assess, from a retrospective examination, both the
financial and non-financial contributions of the parties.
Non-financial contributions are contributions made
which have increased the size of the net asset pool. Such
contributions can encompass the improvement and conservation of the
family home through a spouse's own labour (such as repainting
the home, landscaping, or renovations).
The concept of an indirect financial contribution is a
contribution, or an action, made by one spouse whereby that action
or contribution allows the other spouse to directly financially
contribute to the acquisition of assets. For example, in the
instance where a wife gives up a working career to raise the
children of the relationship, and thus enabling, or freeing-up, the
husband to contribute to the financial build-up of assets, the wife
can be seen to have indirectly contributed to the property
Take for example the situation where a mother gifts money to her
son (a spouse), or where a father provides labour, such as building
a house, to his daughter (a spouse); both spouses can be viewed as
providing indirect contributions to the asset pool.
Whilst non-financial and indirect contributions are not given a
specific dollar value, they are considered by the court in deciding
whether there should be a percentage adjustment to either party in
dividing the asset pool.
In Marriage of Whiteley  FLC 92-304 the indirect
financial contributions of the wife to property were recognised. In
this matter Wendy Whiteley, wife of artist Brett Whiteley, was
found to have made significant contributions to her husband's
art work and success by providing him with artistic inspiration and
supporting him intellectually as a critic and confidante during the
course of the marriage. These contributions were in addition to her
roles of artist's model, business support, and homemaker and
Rowlands J, at [298-9], stated "[g]iven the endeavour
with which the husband is concerned, inspirational input clearly
has the capacity to influence success." Substantial
credence to that proposition was given by the husband when he said
of his wife "All of my work has been hinged to her, drawn
firmly, aesthetically from her" and "If ever I
have a retrospective it will be a chronological testament to my
relationship with Wendy."
In summarising, Rowlands J stated "Looking overall to
the contribution aspect of the case it is clear that the husband,
because of his special skill as an artist, has made by far and away
the major contribution to the substantial assets the parties now
have. His is an unusual talent which has been instrumental in
reaping a rich reward. However, given this situation, the
wife's contribution has been unusually helpful to him in the
In balancing the matters bought for his consideration, Rowlands
J assessed the contribution 70:30 in favour of the husband.
It is pertinent to seek advice regarding the distribution of
assets on the basis that each individual set of circumstances is
unique, and it is a question of weight for the Court to weigh each
party's initial contributions with all other relevant
contributions during the relationship.
It should be noted that the court will only make an order for
settlement of property when it is satisfied that it is just and
equitable to make such an order.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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