Domestic Violence – how does it affect your family law property settlement?
by Matthew Elvin
One of the many things to be taken into account in calculating how much of the matrimonial asset pool each party is entitled to after a relationship ends are the “contributions” each party made during the relationship. It is not just the financial contributions that a person made during the relationship that are considered, but also other contributions, such as homemaker and parenting duties.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, the first thing you need to do is ensure that you are safe and that you have the support you need. Once you are safe and supported, then it will be possible to consider whether the circumstances of domestic violence in your case were such that they make the contributions you made during the relationship more valuable than they otherwise would have been. Put in another way: your contributions may be more valuable because the circumstances in which you were making those contributions were so arduous due to the domestic violence. It follows then, that the more ongoing and the more serious the domestic violence was, the more likely it is that the domestic violence factor will render your contributions during the relationship more significant.
However, there is one very difficult reality if you intend to claim that your contributions were more valuable because of domestic violence – proving it. It is often very difficult to prove that there was serious and ongoing domestic violence. For instance, even if you are able to prove one or two occasions of domestic violence, for instance if there were other witnesses or a recording of it, this still does not necessarily prove that there was serious and ongoing domestic violence. So, unfortunately, unless the perpetrator of the domestic violence against you is willing to admit it, it will often be difficult to prove that it happened to the required level.
If you were the victim of serious domestic violence and you are considering claiming that it made your contributions more arduous throughout the relationship, you should start thinking about all the evidence of the domestic violence that may exist. For instance, there may be documents and witnesses who have seen you immediately after instances of domestic violence. For instance, friends, work mates, counsellors, crisis centre workers, doctors and other health professionals. Some of these people may have even seen the after effects of the domestic violence upon you over a prolonged period of time (perhaps years), so their evidence may support the finding that it occurred over a long period of time.