Where a de facto couple kept their finances separate for 27 years
In the recent decision of Chancellor & McCoy  FCCA 53 the Court found that it was not just and equitable to make an order altering property interests for a de facto couple that had been in a relationship for 27 years.
The Court made this finding because it determined that the couple had ‘conducted their affairs in such a way that neither party would or could have acquired an interest in the property owned by the other’; that is they kept their finances completely separate.
Throughout their 27 year relationship the couple acquired all property in their own names and remained responsible for their own debts. After the relationship began Ms McCoy acquired a property in her own name and the parties lived in and renovated that property. Ms McCoy paid for the renovations and Ms Chancellor assisted with the labour. Ms Chancellor also paid Ms McCoy between $100 to $120 a fortnight for most of the relationship. In 2002, Ms Chancellor then purchased a property in her own name. Renovations were also undertaken on that property, which were funded by Ms Chancellor, while Ms McCoy assisted with labour.
The Court found that the parties had arranged their finances in such a way that they were able to use their wages as they chose and did not have to account to the other party. Moreover, neither party provided for the other in the event of their death. As at separation neither party was aware of the assets the other had acquired.
The Court ultimately, dismissed Ms Chancellor’s application for a property division on the basis that it would not be just and equitable for there to be an order altering property interests, noting that the way the parties conducted their financial affairs meant that neither party would or could have acquired an interest in the property owned by the other.