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The interaction between indirect contribution and superannuation in a property claim

The recent decision of the Family Court [Perrin & Perrin (No2)] reminds us that the indirect contribution of a wife is to be taken into consideration in determining a property settlement in which there is a superannuation interest.

This was a case involving a former police officer (the husband) who during his employment was injured and became entitled to a “hurt on duty” superannuation interest. The superannuation interest comprised a retirement component as well as an injury component.

The husband had been in the police force for approximately 16 years when he and his wife commenced to live together, and his employment lasted for a further 9 years approximately after that.

The husband and the wife did not have children together however both of them had children of previous marriages. the children lived with them from time to time.

With the wife looking after the husband’s children including one who had Asperger’s Syndrome and who lived full-time with the husband and the wife who for a period of about 6 years until he was 18 years old, the husband was able to continue his employment as a police officer and to work shifts and overtime.

The husband argued that he being hurt on duty and the pension that then flowed from those injuries was tantamount to a damages award such that the wife could not be said to have made any contribution to the injury component.

The Court rejected an argument that the “hurt on duty” pension payments received between then and normal retirement age should be categorised as a payment under an income protection policy from an insurance company, and thus excluded from consideration in determining a percentage distribution.

The court confirmed that superannuation once established is to be treated as property for the purposes of a property claim, and it follows that then the court must consider all contributions made during and after the end of the relationship. The intent of this article is not to deal with all of the respective contributions by each of the parties both financial and non-financial nor in their respective capacities as homemakers as that would be a more lengthy presentation, but the specific superannuation issue.

If you would like to know more about this case or the effect of the decision on you please contact Cecil Black on 07 4723 4601.

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