The Courts assess the contributions of each spouse before the relationship, during the relationship, and contributions made since separation.
Contributions include financial contributions, as well as non-financial contributions (such as building work or other contributions not matched by the other spouse), and contributions as a homemaker.
In assessing initial contributions, the Court will not just look at the initial contribution itself, particularly in long relationships. In the case of Williams & Williams the Full Court of the Family Court stated that:-
“there is force in the proposition that a reference to the value of an item as at the date of the commencement of cohabitation without reference to its value to the parties at the time it was realised or its value to the parties at the time of trial, if still intact, may not give adequate recognition to the importance of its contribution to the pool of assets ultimately available for distribution between the parties. Thus where the pool of assets available for distribution between the parties consists of say an investment portfolio or a block of land or a painting that has risen significantly in value as a result of market forces, it is appropriate to give recognition to its value at the time of hearing of the time it was realised rather than simply pay attention to its initial value at the time of commencement of cohabitation. But in doing so it is equally as important to give recognition to the myriad of other contributions that each of the parties has made during the course of their relationship.”
An example of this principle was then discussed by the Court when they said:-
“Pierce v Pierce was a case in which the husband brought in $200,000 cash into the relationship. He applied that money towards the purchase of a matrimonial home. He was employed throughout the marriage and supported the wife who, whilst in some paid employment primarily attended to domestic tasks and taking care of the children. The Full Court assessed the parties’ respective contributions to a pool of $320,000 as 70 per cent in favour of the husband and 30 per cent in favour of the wife at the end of a 10 year relationship.”
The Court also does not draw a line in the sand at the date of separation and assesses the assets at that time. The Court will continue to monitor the actions of the parties after separation, and make any adjustments it considers necessary for their conduct up until trial.
The Court will then settle upon an adjustment to the pool of assets in favour of a party.