Future Needs Strikes Back? Assessing the Consequences of Contributions to De Facto Relationship

ALTA Secretariat
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Conference Proceeding
2006 Refereed Published ALTA Conference Papers, 2006, pp. 1 - 12
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While Australia awaits a national regime for property adjustment following the breakdown of a de facto relationship, there has been an interesting development in the assessment of the contributions made by a de facto party which are to the detriment of that party s skills development and career advancement. In the 2005 decision of Howlett v Neilson,1 the NSW Court of Appeal, after acknowledging that the state legislation does not authorise a future needs adjustment, commented that it does permit an examination as to whether the contributions made by a party were made to the detriment of that party s future interests. This interpretation also has implications for Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory as their respective legislative regimes, like NSW, omit any reference to prospective considerations that would enable a court to take account of a party s future needs . This deliberate omission arguably indicates a legislative intention to draw a clear legal distinction between marriage and other relationships based on cohabitation. While previous judicial attempts to interpret the NSW legislation as allowing some prospective considerations to be considered for justice and equity reasons have failed, this recent decision promises some hope for a party who makes significant contributions to the relationship to the detriment of his or her skills development and career advancement.
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