The Family Court of Australia considers a marriage short if it lasts less than two years. This is because the court believes that couples married for less than two years have had less time to develop a shared life and financial resources.
However, the court will also consider other factors when determining whether a marriage is short, such as:
- The ages of the parties at the time of the marriage
- The length of the relationship before marriage
- The reasons for the breakdown of the marriage
- Whether the parties have any children together
If the court finds that a marriage is short, one party may be more likely to be entitled to a more significant share of the marital assets than the other party. This is because the court believes that the party who has contributed more to the marriage financially or otherwise should be compensated for their contributions.
How Important is the Date of Separation in a Short Marriage?
The date of separation in a short marriage is crucial in Australia, as it marks the formal point where the couple started living separately and apart, signifying the end of the marital relationship. This date is particularly significant for several reasons:
- Initiation of Proceedings: Under Australian family law, divorce proceedings can only commence after 12 months of separation, reinforcing the need to establish a precise separation date. This rule applies regardless of the marriage duration, ensuring that the decision to divorce is considered and final.
- Property and Asset Valuation: The separation date is pivotal in the financial aspect of divorce. It often serves as a cut-off point for assessing both parties’ assets, liabilities, and financial resources, which are to be divided. The values are usually calculated based on the worth on this date, affecting both short and longer-term marriages.
- Contribution Assessment: In short marriages, assessing each party’s contributions (financial, non-financial, homemaker, parent, etc.) is essential, and the date of separation can influence this. The contributions made before and during the marriage until the date of separation are often what’s considered in property settlement proceedings.
- Future Proceedings and Claims: Establishing the date of separation can also be crucial if future claims arise. In property settlements, parties have a 12-month window from a finalized divorce to commence property settlement or spousal maintenance proceedings. Missing these deadlines can result in the loss of rights to claim.
Given these points, the date of separation plays a significant role in legal proceedings following a short marriage in Australia. It affects various factors, from initiating divorce proceedings to valuing assets and potential future claims.
As always, it’s advisable to consult with a family lawyer who can provide guidance based on individual circumstances and ensure the protection of legal rights throughout the process.
Does Non-Financial Contribution Count in Property Assessments?
Yes, non-financial contributions are considered and often play a crucial role in property settlement cases, including those following short marriages, in many jurisdictions, including Australia.
These contributions can significantly impact property division, and courts assess them thoroughly alongside financial contributions. Here’s how they factor in:
Types of Non-Financial Contributions: These can include various roles and actions that, while not contributing monetarily to the marriage, have nonetheless added value. Common examples are:
- Homemaking: Regular household chores, gardening, maintenance, shopping, cooking, and general upkeep of the marital home.
- Parenting: Raising children, including attending to their day-to-day needs, education, health, and extracurricular activities.
- Support for a partner’s career: This might involve moving to a new location for the partner’s job, social networking for business reasons, or contributing ideas, support, and time to a partner’s business venture.
Assessment During Property Division: During property settlement proceedings, the court undertakes a comprehensive assessment process.
This process involves identifying and valuing the property pool, considering each party’s contributions (including non-financial), and contemplating future needs. The aim is to reach an outcome that is just and equitable for both parties.
Impact on the Outcome: Non-financial contributions can significantly affect how assets are divided, particularly if one party has sacrificed their career or financial standing to support the family or the other partner’s career.
These contributions can balance the division, especially if one party’s financial input is more substantial.
Evidence and Valuation: It can be challenging to quantify non-financial contributions, but they are no less valuable or critical in a court’s assessment.
Parties might need to provide evidence, including witness statements, photographs, emails, or other documentation supporting the claim of substantial non-financial contribution.
Anson & Meek  FamCAFC 257
In this case, the parties were married for approximately five years and had no children. The primary asset in their asset pool was a farm purchased by the husband for just over $1,000,000 using his savings of $400,000 and borrowing the rest of the purchase price. By the time of the trial, the farm was worth $1,700,000.
The wife argued that she was entitled to a more significant share of the marital assets, even though she had made no financial contributions to the purchase of the farm. She argued that she had made significant non-financial contributions to the marriage, such as working on the farm and supporting the husband in his business endeavors.
The trial judge found that the wife’s non-financial contributions were significant but did not outweigh the husband’s financial contributions. The trial judge ordered the parties to divide the marital assets equally.
The husband appealed the trial judge’s decision, arguing that the judge had not given enough weight to his initial contributions to the purchase of the farm.
The Full Court of the Family Court of Australia allowed the husband’s appeal and ordered that he receive a more significant share of the marital assets. The Full Court found that the trial judge needed to give more weight to the husband’s initial contributions to the purchase of the farm and that the equal division of the marital assets required to be more fair and reasonable.
The case of Anson & Meek is a reminder that the Family Court of Australia will consider a range of factors when determining how to divide marital assets in a short marriage, including the financial and non-financial contributions of each party and the initial contributions of each party.
It is also important to note that the Full Court’s decision in this case is not binding on other judges. However, it is a significant case that guides the court on approaching short marriage property settlement cases.
Secure Your Future with Expert Short Marriage Property Settlement Advice
At Justice Family Lawyers, we specialize in short marriage property settlements, ensuring your contributions are rightfully acknowledged. Our dedicated team is committed to protecting your interests and securing your financial stability. Take your time with this challenging time; let our experts guide you to a fair resolution. Contact Justice Family Lawyers today for a consultation, and take the first step towards your new beginning.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.