THE BITTERNESS OF FAMILY LAW – IS IT WORTH IT?

Every now and again, a client comes along and is determined to have their day in court.  They tell you that they don’t care how much it costs, “it is all about the principle”.

Fortunately, in most cases, with a bit of gentle persuasion, they are able to be convinced that it is not worth (for both financial and health reasons) maintaining their determination to fight on.

A case determined in the Federal Magistrates Court in March 2013, is an example of two former spouses refusing to give an inch.  The parties had been in a de-facto relationship for one year and eight months.  There was an agreement to segregate their financial affairs during the marriage but that did not entirely occur.  The asset pool was around $360,000.  The main asset was a property owned by the husband with an agreed value of $290,000.  There was a mortgage secured against this property in the sum of $69,052.  This was a property that the husband owned when he entered the relationship.  The balance of the property pool consisted of items which were personally owned by each of the parties, such as motor vehicles, bank accounts and superannuation.

The wife’s application was that the husband pay her $40,000.  The husband wanted the court to dismiss the wife’s application.

For obvious reasons, it is rare for a matter to proceed to a hearing where the asset pool is small.  Nonetheless, the parties proceeded to a two day hearing.  In delivering his judgment, the Federal Magistrate said:

“This was a bitterly contested case, fought with childlike intensity, insensitivity, and without regard by the parties to any sense of proportionality.  One suspects that a costs application may well flow once orders have been made.  The evidence the Court heard about costs incurred in these proceedings suggests that both parties were so wrapped up in the emotional maelstrom of the breakdown of their short marriage, that they could not see how disproportionate this litigation was compared to what they were trying to achieve, let alone to be able to see what a tremendous waste of public resource this litigation was.  Nonetheless, even adults acting like children are entitled to their day in court.”

Ultimately, the order of the court was that the husband pay to the wife the sum of $31,600.  There is no indication of the legal costs that each party spent but it is highly likely, after a two day hearing, that they each would have paid spent a sum similar to the order of the court, perhaps more.

You have to ask the question, was it worth the day in court?