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Court orders $2m to husband from $66m divorce

Cook & Langford (2008) FLC 93-374

Court orders $2m to husband from $66m divorce 27 August 2008 A husband has failed in his bid to increase his $2 million share from a pool of $66 million in divorce proceedings. The couple had co-habited for 5 years and separated after three years of marriage.

The husband, 53, was bankrupt at the time they started cohabiting. The assets came from companies under the wife's control and included rural properties which she had sold after separation. There were no children of the marriage, though the wife had three children under 18 from a previous marriage.

At trial the husband sought a 19.2% adjustment in his favour, largely on the basis of his contributions and the increase in value of the property during cohabitation. The wife refuted the his evidence on contributions and effectively sought a payment from the husband. Justice Moore found the husband was not a credible witness and determined that the wife had made the "overwhelming" contributions. Her Honour ordered that the wife pay the husband $2 million and release him from any debt owing to any company controlled by the wife.

The husband appealed, arguing that the trial judge failed: to provide adequate reasons for awarding a monetary sum for contributions, to give appropriate weight to certain contributions made by the husband, and to make an adequate adjustment under s 75(2). The Full Court disagreed. They found no error in the trial judge's evaluation of contributions and said: "We do not accept there is any requirement under the legislation, or derived from the case law, which imposed on the trial Judge a requirement to assess or "compensate" the husband's contributions by reference to objective data such as comparative wages or business earnings foregone in determining the appropriate monetary sum.

Rather, what her Honour was required to do in the present case was to assess and make findings about the nature of the husband's contributions compared and contrasted with those of the wife, and only in the light of that assessment to adjust the parties' respective assets if necessary to achieve justice and equity between them." (para 73) As to the s 75(2) adjustment, the Full Court was not satisfied that the trial judge failed to give sufficient weight to certain factors, in particular an asserted back injury.

Their Honours found that the orders were just and equitable despite the great disparity in the parties' fortuntes, noting that the husband was able to purchase a substantial home mortgage-free and that he retained jewellery, furniture and his superannuation. Cook & Langford (2008) FLC 93-374

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