By Angela Li
Family law is as dynamic and long-term as families themselves are. Often there can be long gaps between when couples separate and when they divorce, leading to an interim period where financial and parenting issues remain unresolved.
Professional legal advice is the best solution to resolve these issues justly. However it helps if you have an understanding of how the law can view contributions before and after separation.
The recent case of Trask & Westlake is an interesting example of this. The husband and wife separated in 2009, but the case was heard by a judge in 2013. The parties had been together for 13 years and had 4 children, all under 18. During the marriage the couple had traditional roles with the husband as breadwinner and wife as homemaker.
In the 4 years after separation the husband earned almost $9 million. When they finally came before a judge in 2013, the husband’s lawyers argued that the husband should be entitled to his post separation earnings.
The court disagreed and decided that the parties’ contributions in the marriage were equal, saying that:
“The husband had arrived at his [career] position by dint of his talents, dedication and hard work but also by dint of the contributions made by the wife across the years preceding that employment.”
“The assessment of contributions remains a matter of judgment and not of computation”, having regard to “the extremely important contributions made by the wife in maintaining a home as a single parent to four children.”
Ultimately the court ordered that the assets be divided 60/40 in favour of the wife, with the extra 10% adjustment to the wife on the basis of her future needs.
If you have separated recently, this case should serve as an important reminder to seek legal advice soon after separation. The longer the delay between separation and final resolution, the ‘messier’ the situation becomes. This can often give rise to more disputes between parties.
Alliance Legal Services can help you gain some clarity in relation to what you and your spouse are entitled to. We offer a free 30min consultation with one of our lawyers regarding the family law process and what we can do to help you. Having this advice will enable us to work together to achieving the best outcome for you.
For Trask & Westlake, see: http://www.austlii.edu.au/cgi-bin/sinodisp/au/cases/cth/FamCA/2013/928.html?stem=0&synonyms=0&query=Trask