In the eyes of the law, a “short marriage” is considered to have lasted less than a period of five years.
However, the court can also take into account how long the couple had lived together prior to getting married when considering if the marriage is to be viewed as short. In situations where a property settlement is part of divorce or separation, the length of the marriage will often be taken into consideration in deciding the terms.
A property or financial settlement is essentially a financial order that is made under the family law act to fairly divide a couple’s assets and liabilities, arrived at by taking into consideration how much each of the parties contributed to the marriage, both financially and non-financially. Contributing non-financially to a family can include being the ‘home carer’ of the family, for example, a mother staying home to provide for the children. The court also considers the future needs of each party. The court possesses the authority to determine the amount of weight to be given to such considerations when determining the settlement.
How settlement amounts are decided in short term marriages
As stated, the length of the marriage affects the way the court assesses and thus determines the contributions that each party in the relationship has made. In short term marriages, the initial contributions are usually quite significant as they have a substantial effect. In contrast, they might not be as relevant when conducting a financial settlement at the end of a long marriage. Where one party’s initial contributions are included in the pool of assets, adjustments can be made in favour of the other party.
When determining the divisible pool of assets, there are two common methods used: the asset-by-asset or the global approach. The asset-by-asset approach refers to different pools made for differing types of assets. The contributions to each pool and the way in which the pool is divided are then determined separately. Alternatively, the global approach views the property as a whole and places it into a single pool. Depending upon the circumstances of the particular case, the court will decide which approach to take to achieve a just and equitable outcome for each party.
Hemiro & Ramas & Ors (2018)
In the recent case of Hemiro & Ramas & Ors (2018), the court took an asset-by-asset approach to the marriage of Mr Hemiro and Ms Ramos, who were married in 2010 and separated in 2016. The couple did not cohabit prior to being married and were therefore determined by the court to have had a short term marriage. Property A was owned by Ms Ramos, which Mr Hemiro wanted to be sold so as to use the resulting proceeds to repay the costs on the mortgages and credit card bills, with the rest of the money divided 70/30 in favour of Ms Ramos. On the other hand, Ms Ramos wanted to keep Property A and asked that Mr Hemiro be entirely responsible for his credit card and business loans. It should also be noted that both parties kept their finances largely separate from one another. In the end the court took an asset-by-asset approach in deciding that Ms Ramos should repay a sum of $48,272 to Mr Hemiro and that he would keep his business assets.
Seeking legal advice
When undergoing any sort of property settlement, it is strongly advised that legal assistance is sought to assist during the process. This is particularly the case when the couple is considered to be exiting a “short” marriage, as things can easily become more complicated in legal terms.