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Windfalls and how they affect your property matter

Under the Family Law Act, when a separated couple needs to have their property split, one of the steps in the process is assessing the contributions of the parties to ascertain what percentage of the property pool each party is entitled to.  Such contributions can be financial (such as one party’s salary) and non financial (such as who did the cooking, cleaning and gardening).  Things become more complicated when one party receives a large windfall such as an inheritance payout or even wins the lottery.

As their core, these are financial contributions, but the weight given to them is dependent upon the length of the relationship.  In a long term relationship windfalls are more likely to be considered important.  One such example that is fairly frequently seen in our offices, is gifts by third parties or parents.  The Courts has said there is a principle that contributions by a party’s parents will be taken to be a contribution on behalf of that party.  This even includes the provision of rent free accommodation for the couple.  Such a contribution by one party’s parents is often taken as a contribution by that party and bolsters their percentage at the contributions stage.

Inheritance is treated quite similarly.  According to the Courts, inheritance is likely to be treated as property of a beneficiary (ie. the person receiving the inheritance) partner.  The value of this inheritance is then added to the contributions of the party.  The Courts have also ruled that on some occasions, it is possible to rely on a shared expectation of inheritance in your case.

Finally, lottery winnings operate much the same as the above, but also rely heavily on when the winnings were received.  The Courts have said if a lottery ticket was purchased before the parties begin living together the ticket belongs to the party who purchased it.  If the lottery winnings are received after separation then it becomes relevant when assessing the parties future needs.

Such fact scenarios are complex and you should always seek legal advice.  Call our Family Law Team on 02 4324 7699 for a free confidential chat on the phone.

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