WA Supreme Court denies appeal to gain 70% of couple’s super
The Supreme Court of Western Australia has rejected a de facto spouse’s appeal to gain 70 per cent of her and her partner’s joint super interests following their separation, after upholding the original Family Court judge’s finding that the degree to which both spouses contributed to their joint asset pool was more or less equal.
The case concerned Mrs B and Mr P, who were in a de facto relationship from 2005 to 2014 and sought orders to sever their financial relationship, which consisted of around $4 million of assets inside and outside of super. Mrs B sought orders that the net property and super interests be divided 70:30 in her favour, but the Family Court ordered a 55:45 division in favour of Mrs B.
Mr P owned his own construction company which was worth around $1.17 million at the time of the split, while Mrs B worked part-time as an admin assistant but had contributed other assets to the relationship including a property in Broome worth $450,000 and a portfolio of shares worth approximately $84,000.
During the original case, it was argued that Mr P had made the lion’s share of contributions into super for both spouses using the earnings of his business, while Mrs B had allowed her property to be used as security for much of the business’s borrowings.
As such, the Family Court judge found the two had entered “a true economic partnership” during their relationship and it therefore made sense to split the assets equally, with a slight adjustment in Mrs B’s favour given her limited earning capacity compared to Mr P.
Mrs B appealed the decision on the grounds that the judge had not taken into account the fact that Mr P’s business had made a loss for the past three years, had given too much weight to Mr P’s contribution to the business’ success in terms of his skills, and had not given enough weight to Mrs B’s financial contributions to the relationship.
However, the three Supreme Court judges found the original judge had given sufficient attention to the business’s losses, and did not need to give particular attention to the “economic cycle” as a contributing factor to the business’ success, as was contended in Mrs B’s appeal.
The judges also found Mrs B’s financial contributions had already been given sufficient weight in the original judgment, and that there was no additional evidence that her use of her property as security or contributions to the couple’s lines of credit had contributed to the couple’s financial success more than had already been noted.