Negative contribution to property – Is there such a thing?
It may come as a surprise but when assessing contributions to the matrimonial property pool in determining a property settlement, a spouse cannot be found to have made a negative contribution, as no such term exists under the Family Law Act.
This was reinforced in a recent judgement before the Appeal Court, where the trial judge found that the wife had failed to take appropriate care of assets in her possession and control post-separation, thereby causing a “disruption” to the pool of assets available, in other words she made a ‘negative contribution’. The judge said specifically that it did not amount to wastage.
‘Waste’ is a ground that can be considered pursuant to the Family Law Act, and refers to negligent, wanton or reckless behaviour which results in a reduced matrimonial property pool.
The Appeal Court determined that because there was no finding of wastage, and in fact the judge specifically found that it did not amount to waste, then an error had been made in taking those issues into account in reducing the wife’s percentage on those grounds. This was one of the grounds on which the matter was remitted for re-hearing.