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27 August 2015

Fields & Smith: A Nail in the Coffin for “Special” Contributions

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Discussing Fields & Smith [2015] FamCAFC 57

The recent decision of the Full Court of the Family Court in the case of Fields & Smith has overturned the decision at trial that a husband’s ‘special’ skills warranted an adjustment of the assets of the marriage 60%/40% in the husband’s favour.

The basic facts in Fields & Smith were unremarkable. The husband and wife were married for 29 years and were 54 and 51 years of age respectively at the time of trial. The parties had no assets of significance when they married. The wife was the homemaker and primary carer for the parties’ 3 children throughout the marriage and all 3 children were adults at the time of trial. The husband had built a successful construction company on the Gold Coast and, as a result of the success of the business, the asset pool at the time of trial was approximately $39,000,000.00.  At trial the husband received a 10% adjustment in recognition of his ‘special’ skills.

On appeal, the judgment was overturned and Orders made to give effect to an equal division of the assets of the marriage.  The Full Court, in assessing the contributions of the parties, determined that there was equality of contributions during the marriage and that one type of contribution should not be treated and less important or less valuable than the other. The wife’s significant contributions as homemaker were not to be treated as less important or less valuable than the husband’s contributions as breadwinner.

Nevertheless, the decision does not impose a presumption of equality of contributions in a long marriage and each case will be determined on its own facts.

If you have any questions about contributions or property entitlements, please make an appointment with one of our solicitors.

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