Court refuses to make property adjustment despite 27 year de facto relationship

In Chancellor & McCoy[ 2016] FCCA 53 a Single Judge dismissed an application for a property adjustment by a party to a same sex de facto relationship of 27 years. The court held (relying in Stanford) that it was not ‘just and equitable’ (i.e. fair) to make an adjustment of the property interests of the parties for the following main reasons:

  • There was no evidence before the Court that the financial and non-financial contributions (renovations) made by one party had actually improved the value of the properties and therefore no equitable interest had been established.
  • There was no intermingling of finances
  • “Each” party could use the balance of their wages as they wished
  • No joint financial decision making or sharing of information about individual financial decision making
  • Neither party provided for the other in their respective wills or in their superannuation
  • The payment of a small amount of rent was “financial assistance” rather than “financial intermingling”

At first glance this decision seems surprising given the length of the relationship. However, what distinguishes this case is that the parties clearly kept their finances totally separate and did not consult each other at all in relation to financial matters. It should be noted that this is a decision of a Single Judge rather than the Full court. It is not known if the matter is being appealed. As ever, each case very much depends on its own facts. However, this case suggests that any previous assumptions that long relationships result in property adjustments in most cases may need to be reconsidered.