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Key decisions

  • Hoffman & Hoffman [2014] FamCAFC 92
  • Clark & Clark [2014] FCCA 234
  • Kern v Kern [2014] FCCA 1108
  • Willis & Field [2014] FCCA 514

Property – “Big money cases” – Financial contributions not more important than other contributions

In Hoffman & Hoffman [2014] FamCAFC 92 (27 May 2014) the Full Court (Faulks DCJ, Murphy and Watts JJ) dismissed the husband’s appeal against a property order made by Brewster FM (as his Honour then was) by which a $10m pool after a 36 year cohabitation was divided equally. The husband sought a contributions adjustment in his favour due to his ‘“[s]pecial [s]kills and [e]ntrepreneurial flair” applicable to both substantial investments in real property and the share market’ (at [5]). The Full Court said (at [21]) that ‘[t]o the extent that his Honour’s judgment is … that there is no binding rule of law relating to “special contributions” his Honour is, in our view, correct’, concluding: ‘We consider that the true position is … put correctly and succinctly by O’Ryan J in D & D [2005] FamCA 1462 [271]: “… the notion of special contribution has all been a terrible mistake … what I have to do is identify and assess the contributions made by each of the parties without any presumption of entitlement” (emphasis in original) …. Thereafter the court must undertake the exquisitely difficult task of assessing how those respective contributions, often of differing types… find expression in qualitative assessments … In the context of [this] case … the duration of the marriage … has an important influence upon what evidence is relevant … There is no need to conduct a minute forensic examination of the details of contributions over many years with each party extolling their own efforts and attempting to diminish the other’s’( at [61]).

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