In many matters before the specialist Family Court, there are complex issues surrounding property settlement and these often involve family violence. Whilst it is not always discussed, it is certainly a matter that our team of specialist family lawyers at our offices at Richmond, Penrith and Parramatta can assist with.
It is certainly the case that if your matter involves allegations of family violence then this is often a significant factor in any application for property settlement. There have been some cases where spouses have sought a larger adjustment from the available pool of assets as a result of enduring family violence during the course of the marriage and as a result of the difficulties the other party created making the marriage more arduous because of these particular issues. The leading case in this area is Kennon and Kennon  FamCA27. In that case, the wife argued that the husband’s significant family violence including physically assaulting and verbal abuse of her, entitled her to a greater share of the available pool of assets at the time of hearing.
The court certainly found that this was the case and found that:
- If there is proof of a significant impact on the parties contributions to the marriage (or in the case of de facto relationship) having made those contributions more arduous; or
- There was a course of conduct during the marriage (or de facto relationship) showing a pattern or course of conduct;
- There can be an adjustment however this will only be in exceptional circumstances and to a specific or narrow band of cases.
Whilst it has been many years since the advent of what we now know as the “Kennon argument” in some recent cases there has been some narrowing of this and some of the cases where this course of conduct has been narrowed applying what we would also call the “Kennon principle” are:
- Jarrett and Jarrett  FMCAfam55 – in that case it was shown there must be a proof connecting the issues of violence and what contribution was required by the victim.
- Millicott and Millicott  FamCA826 – in this case the Kennon argument was successfully applied whereby the husband engaged in significant drug abuse which resulted in him being incarcerated and subject to home detention. He perpetrated serious emotional stalking behaviour and serious physical assaults on the wife which resulted in her being unable to return to work. The court ultimately held that the wife should receive in addition to any other adjustments an additional 5% from the available assets in her favour as a result of this conduct of the husband.
It just be noted, however, that this was a rare exception and in a significant number of cases there is not always an adjustment. Certainly, our team of specialist family law solicitors at Richmond, Parramatta and our family law department at our Penrith office can assist in this area.