Rich husband ordered to split $40m with ex-wife
Wealthy men who divorce their spouses will no longer keep the majority of the couple’s assets, because they contributed the most skill to a family business while a wife takes a greater parenting role, a court has ruled.
The former wife of a prominent Gold Coast property developer has had her share in nearly $40 million worth of divorce assets increased from 40 per cent to half, in a ruling by the full bench of the Family Court.
According to the judgment, the couple were married 29 years and started out in business with “very little”.
The husband built up a successful construction business, and the wife was the “homemaker and parent” for three children, after being injured in an accident early on in their marriage.
As a director and shareholder, the wife was involved in some aspects in the construction business but the man remained the “driving force behind it”, the judgment by Chief Justice Diana Bryant and judge Ann Ainslie-Wallace on Friday said.
The marriage broke down in 2008 after the husband began an affair with another woman whom he later married and had another child with.
The husband was granted 60 per cent of the couple’s property assets because of his “ingenuity and stewardship” in creating the extremely successful business, in a ruling by The Family Court of Australia in July 2012.
The wife contended that the 60-40 split was “inherently unjust and unfair” and devalued the contribution to the marital partnership of the party fulfilling the homemaker and parent role.
“[A]s here, the female performs the homemaker and parent role, as such an approach leaves women with an unfair burden in the economic consequences of role division during marriage,” the wife’s legal team argued, according to the full court judgment.
But the husband argued he was entitled to an even greater 70 per cent cut in the marital pool because he made greater contributions to the business following their separation and because his former wife took a “passive” role as a director and shareholder.
The wife would also benefit by retaining shares in the business and getting dividends, the husband’s legal team argued.
But the full Family Court sided with the wife, overturning the previous 60-40 split and upping her entitlement to the property assets, worth up to $39.8 million, to half.
The full court found the directorship was “never passive” and the value of the business diminished after the couple split up.
The husband’s case did not give “appropriate credence” to the importance of the wife’s role as homemaker and parent, the judgment said.
The former wife helped her husband with the establishment of the business and continued to have a role in it, it said.
The fact the parties found themselves in the “upper echelons of wealthy Australians” said nothing about their respective contributions to the acquisition and conservation of their wealth during a lengthy marriage.
“The wife’s contributions to the welfare of the family are in themselves significant contributions and does not suggest that one kind of contribution should be treated as less important or valuable than another,” the judgment said.