The recent High Court decision of Stanford [2012] HCA 52 confirms that the Family Court can make orders for property settlement when parties are not separated.  The High Court in this case declined to make orders in circumstances where the parties had been physically separated by virtue of their circumstances; however, the case has certainly left open the door for property settlements applications while a marriage is intact.

While the Court may be conservative in exercising its  power in this way, it's something to be mindful of in appropriate circumstances.  This might especially be the case where one party to the marriage needs nursing care or has a serious disability affecting their capacity, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Arguably, this may even extend to more unusual circumstances where one party has received a term of life imprisonment.