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Does renovation work count as a contribution for family law property division?

In the recent matter of MacKinnon & Talbot the Court had to consider what impact renovation work had in determining the property division.

The de facto wife said that she brought around $485,000 into the relationship in the form of an interest in two properties along with some superannuation; the de facto husband had some minor superannuation, a car and some motorbikes. The parties were together for around 6 years.

During the relationship the wife sold one of her properties and purchased another property which became the parties’ home. For over 10 months the husband then undertook renovation work on that property (ceasing paid employment during that time). That renovation work was “unsuccessful” and had to be removed by a builder – paid for by the wife. The husband than undertook further renovations to the property – which the wife claimed was largely incomplete.

Otherwise, whilst the parties were in dispute about other contributions, the Court accepted that they each committed their resources to the relationship.

The trial judge determined that the husband’s contributions were 17.5%. 

In coming to that percentage the trial judge ignored the renovation contributions by the husband – having concluded that the work did not add any value to the property.

The husband appealed.

The Appeal Court overturned the decision – saying that a contribution is not required to have a positive economic result in order to be taken into account.

Ultimately, with some other issues considered, the Appeal Court determined that the split of property between the parties should be 27.5% to the husband.

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