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Husbands high earnings throughout long marriage not allowed as special contributions

Property – Husband’s high earnings throughout long marriage not allowed as “special contributions”

In Newman [2013] FamCA 37 (30 January 2013) the husband argued that his high earnings throughout the parties’ 28 year marriage were contributions “outside the normal range” and should therefore be treated as a “special” contribution (paras 114). Watts J at paras 116-118:

“Annexure A to the husband’s affidavit sets out what the husband says his sources of income were over a 28 year period from all sources. It is accurate to say that that schedule indicates the husband earned $11,591,970 between 1982 and 2010 (from all sources). Averaged out over the period of 28 years, it is an annual income of a bit over $400,000 a year. When the parties commenced cohabitation in 1982, the husband was on $35,000 a year and that income dropped to $27,500 the following year. True it is the husband’s level of income rose progressively to a stellar year in 2002. The husband during the marriage developed skills to be an executive in the finance industry.

A number of cases have dealt with the concept of ‘special contributions’ (see for example JEL and DDF (2001) FLC 93-075; Figgins & Figgins (2002) FLC 93-122; SL & EHL [2005] FamCA 132; Smith & Fields [2012] FamCA 510).

Insofar as there is [such a thing as] a special contribution case, this is not one of them. It is true that the husband earned a level of income that was significantly more than average weekly earnings but he did so using skills which he had developed during the marriage, working in an industry which remunerated its experienced employees at levels far in excess of average weekly earnings. I infer the husband was able to develop these skills having been substantially freed by the wife from the primary role of homemaker and parent. Although it goes without saying, I repeat that in the context of this long marriage with children, the role of homemaker and parent ‘should be recognised not in a token way but in a substantial way’ (Mallet v Mallet (1984) 156 CLR 605; Ferraro & Ferraro (1993) FLC 92-335).”

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