Dispute Resolution
Initial contributions to a relationship are assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Court.

Initial contributions to a relationship are assessed on a case-by-case basis by the Court.

In the cases of In the Marriage of Pierce (1998) 24 Fam LR 377 and Potter & Llyod (No 2) [2022] FedCFamC1F 824, the Court provided an adjustment to the party who made a significant initial contribution to the relationship. However, as initial contributions tend to erode over time, particularly where there is intermingling of funds, children and other non-financial considerations, some caution needs to be applied in indicating there is no precise amount which can be determined as, in many respects, the Courts discretion is somewhat wide.


In the case of Pierce, the parties had a 10-year relationship with two children aged 8 and 6. During the relationship the Husband was the main breadwinner and the Wife was the primary caregiver of the children and worked part-time. After separation, the Husband had sole care of the children. The parties had made equal contributions during the relationship; however, the Husband had made greater initial contributions as he had contributed $200,000 at the commencement of the relationship to the purchase of the home, and greater post-separation contributions. The Court stated:


[28] In our opinion it is not so much a matter of erosion of contribution but a question of what weight is to be attached, in all the circumstances, to the initial contribution. It is necessary to weigh the initial contributions by a party with all other relevant contributions of both the husband and the wife. In considering the weight to be attached to the initial contribution, in this case of the husband, regard must be had to the use made by the parties of that contribution. In the present case that use was a substantial contribution to the purchase price of the matrimonial home.


The Court held that the Husband had made 70% contributions to the property pool.


In the case of Potter & Lloyd, the parties had a 10-year de facto relationship with one child who was 8 years old. The Wife had brought in a property (Suburb M) and solely paid the mortgage on this property for the first seven years. Subsequently, the parties intermingled finances and purchased three more properties using money withdrawn from the Suburb M property mortgage. The Husband had made no direct financial contributions to the purchase of the three properties, however the Court found the Husband had made non-financial contributions during the relationship. The Court stated:


[104] I find the respondent’s direct initial financial contributions at the commencement of cohabitation were substantially superior to those of the applicant. The contributions attract significant weight in circumstances when regard is had to the use of that direct initial financial contribution (see Pierce & Pierce (1999) FLC 92-844 ). The equity contributed by the respondent in the Suburb M property occupied by the parties throughout the period of cohabitation seeded the funds enabling the acquisition of the three Suburb B properties. I find that the parties would not have been able to acquire the Suburb B properties without the benefit of this direct initial financial contribution of the respondent.


Accordingly, the Court held that the Wife contributed 80% and the Husband contributed 20%.


If the parties’ initial contribution ‘seeded’ the acquisition of your subsequent properties and accrual of the matrimonial pool, the party may receive an adjustment in their favour. However, they are unlikely to receive a ‘dollar for dollar’ return of their initial contribution, and rather the Court will provide an adjustment as a percentage of the current pool.


In some cases, the Court has awarded a 50/50 split to the parties and determined that the parties made an equal contribution during the relationship, and therefore one parties initial contribution which ‘seeded’ the increase in equity is not to be attributed to one party over the other. This occurred in the case of Jabour v Jabour (2019). It was established in the case of Jabour that an increase in value of a property ‘does not favour one party over the other’. In this case, property was brought into the relationship by the Husband and eventually rezoned, increasing the value of the land. The Court noted that:


[136] Whatever was the value of the property at the commencement of the relationship its significance has been largely lost given the myriad of the contributions by each of the parties to their various business ventures, through their employment and care of the family over a long relationship, including the contributions made to the retention of the property which we have discussed above. There is no doubt that they both worked hard and over many years they both contributed to the full extent of their capacity within the roles each took within the marriage.


[137] The reason that there is significant property to be divided is that Property A was fortuitously rezoned which caused its value to skyrocket. As we have explained, this increase in value does not favour one party over the other. Thus although the property was introduced by the husband it was merely the springboard for the events which followed and relevantly the revaluation.

[138] Throughout the relationship the parties’ contributions to this property were no different to their other contributions.


In this case, the Court held that the only contribution the Husband made which would vary the presumption of a 50/50 split was the initial contribution to the former matrimonial home. In saying this, the Court noted that there was an ‘equality of contributions’ during the relationship. The Court held that the Husband receive 53% and the Wife receive 47%.


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