In the case of Beaumont and Schultes (not their real names), a single Judge of the Federal Circuit Court of Australia heard an application by Ms Beaumont following a defacto relationship with Mr. Schultes lasting 18 months. There were no children of the relationship.
The Judge found that Ms Beaumont’s contribution to the welfare of the family were not “substantial” as is required under Section 90SB (b)(3) of the Family Law Act. However the Judge did find that Ms Beaumont had made substantial non-financial contributions pursuant to Section 90(SM4)(b) of the Act. Those contributions included Ms Beaumont cleaning, assisting with the installation of fence palings and with spray painting the fence, sanding the front deck, painting kitchen cupboards, assisting with preparation for the front of the house, doing “dump runs”, collecting items from hardware stores and preparing food and drinks. However, the Judge dismissed Ms Beaumont’s application for a property settlement with Mr Schultes on the following grounds:
(a) It was a very short relationship, of some 18 months.
(b) Ms Beaumont was leaving the relationship in a similar financial position that she entered it. She was in full time employment and part way through a University degree.
(c) Ms Beaumont had made no financial contribution to the renovation, maintenance or preservation of properties owned Mr Schultes.
(d) While her non-financial contributions, set out above, were substantial, they added little to the value of the Mr Shultes’ properties.
(e) Much of the renovation undertaken by Ms Beaumont was to make the properties liveable and enable to be rented.
(f) Ms Beaumont had the benefit of rent free accommodation for the 18 months that the parties lived together.
(g) Ms Beaumont benefited from Mr Schultes' financial support ,including his paying the household outgoings, contributing towards food and entertainment and towards travel.
(i) It will be unjust to Mr Schultes for him to be penalised for the choices that he made to acquire, improve and retain the properties that he had purchased, given that Ms Beaumont had choices as to how to spend her income, and given the contributions that Mr Schultes had made to the relationship.
Finally, the Judge concluded that “as (Ms Beaumont) has failed to establish a serious injustice then the gateway offered by the Family Law Act shuts, resulting in the Court not having the jurisdiction to alter property interests due to the breakdown of the defacto relationship”.
So, do not expect that there will be a property settlement in a short defacto (or marriage) relationship, even if one party has made substantial non-financial contributions to the relationship.