29 year marriage, $32-$39 Million assets, 60/40 split

July 2012 saw a court proceeding worth $32-39 million, accumulated over a 29 year marriage, be fought over in the Family Court of Australia. This particular marriage had produced three children and the mother had been homemaker in their $10 million house.

The father and mother had a successful business of which they had equal shares. The parties had agreed that the mother’s contributions were more homeward focused while the father’s contributions were directed towards the business. Both parties, however, claimed significant contributions in both family and the business side of the relationship. The father claimed a 70/30 split in his favour as he believed his contributions to both the family life and as breadwinner were more valuable to their relationship. The wife disagreed and claimed equal contributions from both parties.

The court stated that the role of homemaker and primary caregiver is often overlooked and undervalued as that parent allows the other parent space and mental clarity to pursue career and income. However, the court noticed that for the past four years of their marriage the parties all of the children had reached adulthood.
The court decided that the contribution towards business was exceedingly greater by the father and awarded him a 60/40 split.

This matter is under appeal.

Smith & Fields [2012] FamCA 510


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Founding Member of Entertainment Group Successfully Keeps Royalties

Property settlements help determine who gets what, who brought what into the relationship and what share of the property does each party get. But what if the “property” being battled over are royalties from a successful entertainment group? This was the case in April 2012.

Pre-marital cohabitation and nine years of marriage between a founding member of a largely successful entertainment group and his wife ended. These parties were trying to determine who had contributed what to the relationship. The husband claimed that he had contributed more and stated his share as being 85%. The wife claimed it was 50%.

At the time of moving in together the wife had one car and $10,000. The husband had $1.9 million (his share of the group’s royalties) and was earning $237,000 a year. The entertainment group had started four years before the couple had moved in together. But the husband had to retire because of health reasons two years after the couple had separated.

Justice Ryan took into account all of the evidence provided by each party of their contributions to the marriage and relationship and agreed with the Father awarding him 85%.

Pope [2012] FamCA 204

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Mother relocates child from Adelaide to Queensland to be with Internet Lover

April 2012 saw a seven year old boy be moved from Adelaide to Queensland so that his mother could make a new life with an internet lover she had met online the year before. The boy’s father was in Adelaide, unaware of the fact that the Queensland holiday he had agreed to actually mean his son was moving states. The Father found out after the boy had been enrolled in a Queensland school.

The Mother claimed that as she was the primary caregiver then the boy ought to be allowed to move with her. She also stated that the boy had no wish to move back to Adelaide with his father and that the boy was calling the Mother’s fiancé “dad”.  The Father rightfully and strongly disapproved of the child’s relocation and applied to the court for an order that would bring his son back.

Federal Magistrate Brown granted the Father’s wish and created an order that sought the Mother’s return to Adelaide with their son within fourteen days of the orders being made. The Federal Magistrate stated that relocation shouldn’t occur in situations where there are recent developments that can modify the relationship between son and parent especially when that development is because of the actions of one parent.

The orders created to return the son to his Father confirm the court’s approach to parenting orders: parents should have some security that their children cannot be relocated without the court’s say so, or without an explicit agreement between Mother and Father.

Talia [2012] FMCfam567

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Court Allows Mother and Child to Relocate from Melbourne to NSW

One very uncommon ruling that is made in parenting matters is the one that allows a child to be relocated once their parents have separated. This is generally because it disrupts the child’s life more than the separation has already, and limits the interactions between parent and child. But in August this year that is exactly what happened.

Originally from NSW the mother now lived in Melbourne with her family – consisting of her husband and a 2 year old child. The mother had expressed her desire to return to NSW and with the support of the court appointed Family Consultant (councilor) it was determined that the mother, if forced to stay in Melbourne, would face emotional and psychological stress and this would limit her capacity to act as primary caregiver to her child.

The Federal Magistrate determined that NSW would offer her a support network that she believed was genuine (her family), realistic employment opportunities and ensure that her mothering abilities would not suffer due to psychological and emotional strain.

The orders were made and she could return, with her child, to NSW while the father stayed in Melbourne.

Danner & Kelso [2012] FMCAfam824

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Parenting Orders for Shift Working Father

Generally the standard in parenting orders is an alternate weekend scheme. One week with mum, the next week with dad, but on the 10th of October 2012 a more unusual parenting order was made that catered for the dad’s work schedule.

The mother in this parenting matter was looking for the above timetable, alternate weekends. If the father was working when the children were supposed to be with him than care of the children would go to the paternal grandmother or the mother herself. Due to the odd work times for the father, this schedule wasn’t going to benefit the relationship between father and children. The father worked an eight day fortnight with two 10-hour day shifts followed by two 14-hour night shifts. This roster would mean that he would not be able to have regular time with the children unless the orders were modified to fit in with his work timetable.

The Federal Magistrate dealing with the matter concluded that the alternate weekend routine would not be appropriate for this family set up and allowed the orders to be made so that they line up with the father’s timetable and the kids would be able to see their father on a more regular basis.

The Federal Magistrate suggested that had the mother and father stayed together, this routine would have been one that the family would have naturally followed. This parenting order allows for weekend and weekday time with the children each week- giving the children time where both mother and father take them to after school events, help with the day to day routine of school, help with home work and have quality time together.

This was a wonderful and innovative outcome that is clearly in the best interest of the children.

Lees[2012] FMCAfam 1074 (Whelan FM)

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