Steven Davies and Rebecca Richardson ask the Court to determine a preliminary question in these proceedings as to when their de facto relationship ceased. Commencing in 1999 they lived together for more than nine years and had two children. If their relationship continued until 1 March 2009 and broke down only after that date then the Family Court of Australia has exclusive jurisdiction to resolve the property and financial issues between them. But if the relationship ended prior to that date this Court has jurisdiction under the Property (Relationships) Act 1984 (NSW) to adjust the couple’s interest in property.
Mr Davies, the plaintiff, contends that the relationship ended in August 2008 when Ms Richardson left their joint home in Randwick with their two children. Ms Richardson, the defendant, contends that she left the joint home to work on their relationship and that despite their separation the relationship continued until about late March 2009. Mr Davies points to incidents in early August 2008 which he says are markers of the termination of the relationship at that time. Ms Richardson points to similar incidents which she says indicate a termination at that later time in late March 2009. But to answer the question whether their relationship survived until 1 March 2009 the Court need not accept either party’s view as to when the relationship ended. Indeed the Court finds in these reasons that Mr Davies is wrong and Ms Richardson is right, that their relationship did survive past August 2008. But for the reasons which follow, the Court concludes that their relationship had ended before 1 March 2009.
The beguiling subtlety of human relationships makes it more than slightly artificial to pronounce in a courtroom the date by which Mr Davies and Ms Richardson’s domestic relationship ended. But laws passed in Federal Parliament command judicial officers to do this. I will first analyse these laws that require the Court to examine information and communications that would otherwise belong only to the parties…
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