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Key decisions

  • Singerson & Joans [2014] FamCAFC 238
  • Fielding & Nichol [2014] FCWA 77
  • Adamson [2014] FamCAFC 232
  • Lad & Gittins [2014] FamCA 439

Property – Husband’s $3million inheritance post-separation – Global approach – Wife’s superior contributions during and since cohabitation

In Singerson & Joans [2014] FamCAFC 238 (10 December 2014) the Full Court (Bryant CJ, Ainslie-Wallace & Crisford JJ) considered a 15-year marriage in which the husband inherited $3 million (value at trial) soon after the parties’ separation. Total assets were $7.4 million.

Both parties appealed Jordan AJ’s property order, seeking a re-exercise of discretion by the Full Court.

There were two children. Since 1999 the husband had been a retrenched valuer who suffered depression and had ‘sporadic’ employment. The wife was the children’s primary carer and a pharmacist earning $250,000 per annum after tax (at [10]–[14]). In allowing the appeal, the Full Court said (at [65]-[66]) that ‘his Honour misled himself … in identifying only the four years between separation and trial as being the appropriate time upon which to assess contributions to the inheritance rather than across their 15-year relationship’.

The court found that the wife’s contributions during and since cohabitation were ‘significantly greater … to the property acquired prior to separation’ (at [94]), holding ‘[d]espite the timing of the receipt of the inheritance’ that ‘over this long marriage, a global approach is appropriate’ (at [96]). Contributions were assessed as 52.5 per cent in favour of the husband (at [97]). No further adjustment was made under s 75(2) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth).

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