When a marriage or de-facto relationship ends and the parties seek to have their property divided by the Family Court, the courts looks at the respective contributions made by each party during the life of the relationship.  The court will look at the financial and non-financial contributions made by each party to the relationship to arrive at a decision that is `just and equitable’.

Sometimes in cases where there are significant assets “big money cases” one party may argue that they are entitled to a greater share of the asset pool because of their special skill in generating the said assets such as financial `know how’.

In the recent case of  Hoffman v Hoffman [2014]  FamCAFC (27 May 2014) The full court dismissed the husband’s appeal against a property order made by Brewster FM by which a $10 million pool after a 36 year cohabitation was divided equally.  The husband had sought that there be  a contribution adjustment in his favour due to the pool being attributable to his “special skills” and “entrepreneurial flair” in his substantial investments in the share market and in property (at [5]).

The Full Court said at [21] that “to the extent that his Honour’s judgement is… there is no binding rule of law relating to ‘special contributions’ his Honour is, in our view correct”.  The court concluded that it must undertake `the exquisitely difficult task of assessing how those respective contributions, often of differing types (a task which his Honour O’Ryan J in D & D [2005] FamCCA ) described as a comparison of  apples and carrots), find expression in qualitative assessments…In the context of [this] case…the duration of the marriage…has an important influence upon what evidence is relevant…There is no need to conduct a minute forensic examination of the details of contributions over many years with year party extolling their own efforts and attempting to diminish the other’s.”

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