Family Law Blog

How I met your Mother

Posted by on 14 May 2012

Or your Father for that matter…

Often when recounting how parties met, people tend to remember things like the time, the date, maybe even what they were wearing. One of my aunts recalls distinctly that she was having a “bad case of bad hair day”.

Thankfully no one ever took more than 7 minutes to recall the meeting, let alone 7 seasons to get to the gist of it.

You may (or may not) be interested to know that the Court is also concerned, in a way, as to how the parties met at the commencement of cohabitation and that is really not so much ‘how it was’ but more ‘how much they were worth’ at the time.

The reason the Court is interested puts a spin to romance novel material around the world of the rich partner falling for the not-as-rich spouse. The spin, separated couples would be happy to know has more to do with a just and equitable division of property if or when the relationship doesn’t work out.

The Court’s just and equitable way is not the Robin Hood way of taking from one and giving to the other. But more of a careful calculation to acknowledge a party’s initial contribution and it’s benefit to both parties during their marriage when dividing assets at the end.

To determine initial contributions, many factors are taken into account. These include the amount of contribution, type of contribution and length of the relationship among other things.

Your lawyers will and should always ask comprehensive questions regarding initial contributions. These questions could include whether or not your spouse was ‘aware’ of said contribution. It is not uncommon for many spouses to be unaware of initial contributions or to choose to turn on “selective memory mode”.

Be also prepared to show proof of the contribution. Such proof can be in the form of property transfers, letters of probate regarding inheritances received etc. One good though relatively uncommon way of documenting proof is a ‘pre-nup’.

Thanks to Hollywood and it’s constellation of stars, pre-nuptial agreements are often viewed as agreements that determine the question that is popped the minute a relationship ends, the ‘who-gets-what’ question. While that maybe the case, pre-nuptial agreements have other purposes (I am not going to launch into them here), one of which is to document each party’s net worth at the beginning of the relationship and ensure that both parties are ‘aware’ of this nett worth (in case either party believed, or was led to believe, that the Mercedes parked outside was fully financed and the first class honeymoon tickets were ‘a gift’ from one of the parents).

So next time you try and recall how you met your partner, remember the important thing to tell your lawyer and the Court is really how your wealth portfolio was faring at the start of the relationship with said partner.