Opinion

Estate claim by a divorcee

The Greek Goddess of Justice, known as Themis.
The Greek Goddess of Justice, known as Themis. Rae Wilson

MATTHEW and Mary divorced 20 years ago after a brief relationship that resulted in the birth of their only child, Lisa.

After separation, Matthew paid Mary child-support and paid all of Lisa's school fees.

By way of a judgement in the Family Court, Mary received approximately 40% of the matrimonial assets.

Mary received less than Matthew because he had significant assets prior to the commencement of the brief relationship, although an adjustment was made in Mary's favour due to her ongoing care of Lisa.

When Matthew dies at the age of 65, Lisa becomes entitled to the whole of his substantial estate.

Lisa's relationship with Mary deteriorated many years ago and they have only had minimal contact during the last five years.

Mary believes that she should be entitled to a part of Matthew's estate and commences action against Lisa.

By this stage, Mary has assets of around $300,000 and receives a disability support pension as a result of a recent motor vehicle accident.

The court hears that Lisa and her partner earn good salaries and have combined net assets of around $200,000.

Mary alleges that the family law proceedings resulted in a miscarriage of justice, due to Matthew's failure to fully disclose his income.

The court analyses the judgement that was handed down 15 years earlier and while conceding that the legislation permits Mary to "take a second bite of the cherry", finds that there was no miscarriage of justice.

However, the court did find that Mary suffered an "unusually enduring impact" as a result of the breakdown of the marriage. The court also found that Mary's care for Lisa after the separation created a significant financial burden, beyond what was anticipated by the Family Court.

Ultimately, in circumstances where Matthew's estate was considered large enough to make provision for Mary, the court ordered that she receive a lump sum legacy of $750,000. The estate also paid her legal costs.

If you would like Manny to address a particular legal issue, send your request to manny.wood@ticliblaxland.com.au or call him on (02) 6648 7487.



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