In the case of Singerson & Joans [2014] FamCAFC 238 (10 December 2014) The Full Court (Bryant CJ, Anslie-Wallace and Crisford JJ) deliberated upon the parties 15 years of marriage.  The parties had  lived together in a de facto relationship from July 1994, had married in 1996 and they separated in February 2004.

The husband’s father died in February 2009 just before the parties’ separation.  The husband inherited $3million (value at trial).  The total assets, under consideration for the property settlement of the relationship was $7.4 million.

Both the husband and the wife appealed Jordon AJ’s original property order, seeking a re-exercise of discretion by the Full Court.  The parties had two children of the relationship aged 10 and 13. The wife was the primary carer and a pharmacist who earned $250,000 per annum after tax (at [10]-[14]). The husband worked as a property valuer. In 1999 he was retrenched from his employment.  He had suffered from depression from time to time in the following years and as such his employment since 2001 had been sporadic. (at [10])

In allowing the appeal, the Full Court said at [65]

“…that his Honour misled himself, and thus fell into error, in identifying only the four years between separation and the trial as being the appropriate time upon which to assess contributions to the inheritance rather than across their 15 year relationship.”

 

The Court said at [94]

“We have no difficulty accepting that over a period of approximately 15 years cohabitation and a further four years between separation and the trial that the wife made the significantly greater contribution to the property acquired prior to separation. In particular we refer, as did the trial judge to her greater contribution both in a financial sense and in terms of her care of the home and for the children” . The Court further said “[d]espite the timing of the receipt of the inheritance” that “over this long marriage a global approach is appropriate” (at [96]).

Contributions were assesed at [97] as 52.2 per cent in favour of the husband.  No further adjustment was made under s 75 (2).