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Gifts from parents. Is direct evidence required or can parental intention be inferred?

Friday 26th June 2020

By: Melanie Wilson

The case of Mabb & Mabb and Anor (2020) is a Full Court decision of the Family Court.

The Court made findings about contributions to property made by the Husband’s parents during the relationship.  It was the Wife’s position that property that was in their joint names was transferred from the Husband’s parents to both of them.  The Husband’s position was that the property was transferred to his name only. 

The parties were in a relationship for about 15 years.  There were two children of the relationship and the Husband had four children from a previous relationship. 

The Husband’s parents owned a block of land which they sub-divided into several blocks.  Early in the relationship, the Husband’s parents transferred 60 acres of that property into the joint names of the parties.  The property was transferred on the understanding that the parents would build a house on the land and that the parties would look after the parents if need be.

The parties established a cropping business on the property, which also had a retail business attached to it, and both parties worked in that business.  From 2011 the Wife and the Husband’s mother did most of the work in the business. The business ran into difficulties, and they tried to sell it over the next seven years.  They eventually closed the business in 2018.

At the Trial, the parties’ contributions were regarded as equal during the relationship. The Wife was given an adjustment in her favour because she had made greater post-separation contributions and because the Husband’s actions rejecting offers to purchase the property was detrimental to the parties.

At both the Trial and on Appeal, the Court found that the Husband’s parents had intended to gift the property to both parties, not just to the Husband.

In this case, the property was transferred into the names of both parties and the Court inferred that the intention of the Husband’s parents was to gift the property to both of them.

The Appeal Court found that it was not necessary to only have direct evidence of intention and that it was possible to make findings from inferences drawn from the facts. 

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