The Facts

Differing individual contributions to marriage

A husband and wife were married on 2 February 2002, separated on 9 April 2010 and got divorced on 2 August 2011.

They had one child, who was born in 2005 and was cared for equally by the two parents after the separation.

At the beginning of the marriage, the wife had a small amount of assets. The husband, on the other hand, owned two properties, shares, a vehicle and substantial superannuation.

During the course of the marriage, the two properties that the husband contributed to the marriage were sold and two other properties were acquired. At the time of the family law proceedings, those properties were valued at a total of $691,833 and subject to a mortgage of $111,115.

The couple's superannuation equalled $289,816 at the time of the proceedings, with only $5,606 being in the wife's super fund. The parties also held other assets equalling $39,099 as an agreed value.

Husband receives substantial inheritance forming 32% of asset pool

In 2014, some four years after the couple separated, the husband inherited $430,686 from his father.

In 2016 the trial magistrate found that the net value of the parties' assets was $1,340,319. The inheritance accounted for around 32% of the asset pool. Because of this, the husband was seen to have contributed 75% of the pool of marital assets, while the wife was seen to have contributed 25%.

Because of the disparity in income, the wife was ultimately held to have contributed 35%. She therefore received 35% of the $1,340,319 and the husband received 65% of it.

When the husband appealed the trial magistrate's decision, it was up to the appeal court to determine whether the ruling should stand.

case a - The case for the husband

case b - The case for the wife

  • Money I inherited several years after I divorced my ex-wife should not be included in the pool of assets, since it had nothing to do with our marriage.
  • The inheritance from my father is totally unconnected to our marriage and has nothing to do with any circumstances arising from the matrimonial relationship.
  • The law as set out in the Family Law Act does not require my inheritance to be included among the marital assets.
  • The trial magistrate was wrong to include the money I inherited from my late father, as that money was his gift to me specifically as his son, so the court should overturn the trial magistrate's decision.
  • It does not matter when my ex-husband received the inheritance, since he was once my husband and the law looks at all contributions to the marriage up until the time the court makes its final orders.
  • He inherited the money in 2014 and the court did not make its final decision until 2016.
  • My husband's inheritance is connected to our marriage because I was once a part of that family by marriage.
  • I was welcomed into the family, which means that matters like inheritances from parents-in-law must be included in a final settlement. It is only fair. We were married eight years and have a child together.

So, which case won?

Cast your judgment below to find out

Emily Wittig
Divorce and separation
Stacks Collins Thompson

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.