Domestic Violence and Property Settlements

Domestic Violence and Property Settlements

The effects of domestic violence on a party to a relationship can include psychological trauma, physical health problems and financial hardship. As a consequence, it is often more arduous for victims of domestic violence to make contributions to the relationship. For example, a victim of domestic violence may be unable to maintain employment, or alternatively find it difficult to fulfil daily tasks due stress or fear of not meeting the expectations of their violent partner.

In the case of the Marriage of Kennon (Kennon)[1], the Full Court of the Family Court of Australia considered the nexus between violence perpetrated by one spouse against another, and the direct impact that the violence had on the contributions made by each party. In this case, the wife claimed to have been in fear for her safety during the course of the relationship due to the husband’s alcohol fuelled outbursts where he would yell, shake her and hit the walls and furniture. As a result of the level of fear she experienced, she found it arduous to complete day to day tasks which should have been undertaken with ease.

The Full Court held that in assessing each party’s contributions, the Court should consider whether “the violence of one party had a significant adverse impact upon the other party’s contributions to the marriage, or…made his or her contributions significantly more arduous than they ought to have been[2].”  In Kennon, the Court made an additional adjustment in the Wife’s favour for contributions that she would have otherwise been able to make if she had not been subjected to domestic violence.

 

[1] (1997) FLC 92-757

[2] Ibid at 84,294.