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Marriage: it’s the beginning, but is it also the end?

February – it is known as the month of love. So much so that the ABS’ national statistics on marriages released in November 2021 confirmed that February was the most popular month for marriages. However a recent decision of the Full Court of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia has provided a timely reminder of the need to consider how marriage may impact your financial circumstances.

In the matter of Thorpe & Stirling, the parties had entered into Consent Orders whereby the Husband agreed to pay the Wife’s mortgage repayments on a future loan, allowing her to re-house herself following separation. The Husband agreed to pay the loan up to $500,000 until it was discharged. The difficulty arose when the Wife re-married. The Family Law Act provides that a spouse maintenance order ceases to have effect if someone re-marries; whereas a property order continues to have effect. The question for the Full Court was whether the order to pay the mortgage repayments was a property order or a spouse maintenance order.

The Court found that because the order for payment of up to $500,000 caused the Wife to receive more than the total value of the asset pool, it must have been a spouse maintenance order, rather than a property order. As such, the Husband’s obligation to pay the mortgage repayment ceased to have effect when the Wife re-married.

So before taking that step down the aisle, consider how your financial circumstances may be impacted when you say “I do”.

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