In some cases, instances of family violence may be relevant to financial applications related to property settlements that arise from the end of a marriage or de facto relationship.
The division of property in such situations is determined under the Family Law Act, which considers the contributions of both parties to the relationship in both financial and non-financial terms. Generally, the conduct of partners during the relationship is not a relevant factor, except for cases involving the destruction or wasteful dissipation of assets by one party or violent conduct by either party.
Family violence under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) refers to any behavior that is violent, threatening, or controlling towards a member of a person’s family, resulting in fear or coercion.
If it can be proven that family violence has had a significant adverse impact on the victim’s ability to financially contribute, then the victim may be entitled to an uplift of their property settlement entitlements.
The matter of Kennon v Kennon was a landmark case in Australia that recognised that victims of family violence may have a reduced ability to financially contribute to their relationship and therefore property settlement should be adjusted accordingly. In this case, the husband had a higher income and had contributed more assets to the relationship.
The court considered seven specific incidents of family violence that had a significant impact on the victim’s physical and mental health. The court increased Mrs. Kennon’s property settlement entitlements from $400,000 to $700,000 after taking into account the violent conduct perpetrated against her by her husband.
To be successful in making a Kennon claim, three elements must be satisfied. These include the establishment of an ongoing course of violent conduct, a significant reduction in the victim’s contributions to the marriage due to the violent conduct, and the violent conduct made their contributions significantly more arduous than they should have been.
This means that the Court would the court would need to evaluate the financial effects of family violence on the victim’s physical and mental well-being, financial situation, and employability prospects. An adjustment to the property settlement entitlements would only be made if the court determined that failing to do so would result in significant financial consequences and there was substantial evidence of the family violence.