… Renovations that “came to nothing” were still contributions
In MacKinnon & Talbot  FedCFamC1A 156 (19 September 2023) Riethmuller J, heard a de facto husband’s appeal from property orders made by Morley J.
The parties were in a de facto relationship of six years (). The de facto wife owned two properties that were applied towards the purchase of other real estate (“the Suburb C property”).
The de facto husband undertook renovations on the Suburb C property for over 10 months that were unsuccessful and subsequently removed by a builder employed by the de facto wife ().
Riethmuller J said (from ):
“The appellant alleges the increase in the value of the Suburb C property, from $709,000 at the time of purchase to $1,725,000 at the time of trial, should be treated as a windfall and considered to be a contribution made equally by each of the parties. …
( … )
 To approach the matter [that way] … would be to quarantine one particular contribution and fail to consider the matter holistically … The … argument incorrectly attempts to convert the principle that increases in value should not simply be attributed to the title holding spouse … to some form of community property principle requiring the entire increase in value of an asset to be quarantined as an equal contribution of each party. It was clearly not a ‘windfall’ …
( … )
 There is no question that the appellant undertook work on the home nor that his efforts were genuine. … [N]ot all contributions by parties to marriages or de facto relationships lead to an increase in the wealth of the parties … There is no requirement that a contribution must result in a positive economic result before it can be taken into account … Whilst the lack of economic benefit may be relevant (Willmore and Willmore  FamCA 45 … ), a party’s work and effort generally remains a contribution unless it is conduct of the type described in Kowaliw and Kowaliw  FamCA 70”
His Honour re-exercised the discretion and ordered a 72.5:27.5 division in favour of the de facto wife. Costs certificates were ordered.
Craig Nicol and Keleigh Robinson are co-editors of The Family Law Book. Both are accredited specialists in family law (Queensland and Victoria, respectively). The Family Law Book is a one-volume loose-leaf and online family law service (thefamilylawbook.com.au).