While spouses enjoy a relatively clear-cut set of rules pertaining to property division in the event of a divorce, de facto relationships do not. Since de facto relationships are not regulated specifically (nor they are subject to registration) under Polish law, we need to apply the general principles of law to determine how property acquired during a de facto relationship should be distrubted to the parting couple.
It is well established in the jurisprudence of the Polish Supreme Court that the principle of unfair enrichment regulates the division of property of a de facto relationship. A recent Supreme Court judgment sheds some light on how the principle should be applied.
The story goes as follows: a HNW-pair after several years of a de facto relationship decided to split up. What makes the story more interesting – the man was married all the time during that relationship. The man bought a house only on his name during the de facto relationship, while the woman furnished the house. The value of the house increased threefold during their relationship.
The common courts calculated the per cent of her contribution towards the value of the house at the time she furnished it and awarded her the same per cent calculated accordingly to contemporary prices (thus adjusting/valorizing her contributions). The Supreme Court, however, remanded the case. It noted that the division of property of a de facto relationship should include the decrease arising out of normal wear and tear as well as amortization and depreciation of fixed assets. According to the Supreme Court, the contribution made by the woman should not be classified as expenditures on the house but as financial aid made to her partner, which should not be adjusted/valorized.
As a consequence of the above judgment, it seems that it might be better in some situations to remain in a de facto relationship. If the couple were married, then the expenditures made by the woman on the furniture would be adjusted/valorized to today’s prices.
It should be also kept in mind that in an ordinary divorce case concerning a marriage, the role of the court is bigger than in other cases as the court has an obligation to establish by itself the value and the components of the joint marital property. While in a case concerning the division of property of a de facto relationship, the court is bound by the parties’ actions and does not investigate the case by itself, thus requiring the participation of a well-trained advocate
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