The Worth of Contributions in a De Facto Relationship is the same as Contributions in a Marriage
In late 2019 Freeman Lawyers was involved in a successful appeal to the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia. We acted for the de facto wife. The Full Court confirmed that contributions made during a de facto relationship are the same as contributions made during a marriage.
Another important part of the judgement is that even if a de facto relationship was punctured by periods of separation, the contributions made during the periods of separation can be taken into account.
The de facto wife was wholly successful with her appeal.
Costs and Conduct
The Full Court made a costs order against the de facto husband. The court took into account the de facto’s husband conduct during the trial and on appeal.
As to the de facto husband’s conduct at trial, the Full Court stated at paragraph 63:
“With respect to the latter submission, on our review of the record and transcript and submissions at trial we consider that there was significant contribution by the husband, in the manner of the conduct of his case and the submissions put to the trial judge on the husband’s behalf on central issues, which contributed to the errors on the part of the trial judge which we have identified.”
The Full Court also took into account the de facto husband’s conduct on appeal and stated at paragraph 64:
“Moreover, the errors which we have identified and addressed, ought to have been obvious to the husband and, at the latest, by the time the husband received the wife’s Summary of Argument for the appeal. An obvious and sensible course would have been for the husband to concede errors on the part of the trial judge and thus to concede the appeal, but this the husband did not do, with the costs consequences for the wife.”
In relation to the amount of legal fees sought by the de facto wife, the court stated at paragraph 66:
“Having regard to the particulars contained in the wife’s Schedule of Costs we consider the sum sought by the wife for her costs to be reasonable and indeed is in a modest total having regard to the nature of the appeal, and by comparison with like appeals and consequent costs.”
Periods of Separation
A full copy of the judgement can be found here – Whiton & Dagne  FamCAFC 192 (31 October 2019).