In the recent decision of Trask & Westlake, the Full Court of the Family Court considered the parties’ respective contributions where the husband had accrued significant assets following separation.
The parties had four children and had taken up traditional breadwinner and homemaker roles. Four years after they separated, Judge Aldridge made orders for settlement of property. His Honour assessed the parties’ contributions prior to and following separation to be equal. He then adjusted that assessment by 10% in the wife’s favour taking into account the husband’s greater earning capacity and financial interests.
Judge Aldridge recognised that the wife made equal post-separation contributions to those of the husband because she had made significant indirect financial contributions, contributions to the welfare of the children and direct non-financial contributions to the husband’s ability to be employed.
The main issues in the appeal came out of the period following separation when the husband’s employment and subsequent retrenchment resulted in him being paid approximately 9 million dollars. The husband appealed on the basis that he had earned more money in the years after separation than the value of the matrimonial asset pool at the time of separation. He argued that the wife’s post-separation contribution had not been equal to his given the four year period since separation, the independence of the children and the fact that the children had left home. He argued that the trial judge should have given greater weight to his post-separation contributions and less weight to the wife’s different contributions.
The Full Court found that the husband had arrived at his career position as a result of both his own talents and hard work but also because of the contributions made by the wife across the years preceding his post separation employment. On that basis, the trial judge’s assessment of the post-separation contributions made by the wife was upheld.