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Property – equal assessment of contributions failed to recognise husband’s 30% inheritance

In Roverati [2021] FamCAFC 89 (11 June 2021) the Full Court (Strickland, Ryan and Austin JJ) considered a 33-year marriage that produced two children.

In 2003, the wife received an inheritance of about $50,000 ([18]), which was put in a trust and had not generated income. In 2006, the husband received an inheritance, worth at least $404,619, that generated rental income.

The net pool was $1,317,405 ([60]).

Allowing the appeal, Strickland and Ryan JJ said (from [27]):

“The … husband’s complaint …[is] that … his Honour implicitly concluded that both inheritances were similar in nature, and … his Honour erred by giving no or insufficient weight to the [husband’s] inheritance ( … )

[32] … [T]he husband’s inheritance was … at least … $404,619.64, whereas the wife’s … approximately $50,000. … [T]he husband’s financial contribution … was significantly more than the wife’s, … without taking into account the income subsequently derived therefrom, and the increases in the value of the assets …

[33] … [T]he assessment of contributions is not a mathematical or accounting exercise, … it is an holistic undertaking with all … contributions … being taken into account (Dickons & Dickons [2012] FamCAFC 154 … ) …

[34] … [I]t is not apparent from his Honour’s treatment of the respective contributions … culminating in a finding of equality, how the contributions of the wife informed that outcome, such that the … financial contributions of the husband … did not result in a weighting in his favour. ( … )

[39] … There is no recognition that approximately 30 per centum of the asset pool … was derived from the husband’s inheritance, and his Honour’s failure … cannot be masked by suggesting that his Honour … applied the requisite holistic approach in assessing contributions ( … )

[58] … [G]iven the significant financial contribution by the husband of his inheritance, … the respective contributions of the parties should be assessed at 55 per centum/45 per centum in the husband’s favour.”

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