Douglas’ ex clashing over Wall Street cash

by Kate Marr on November 26, 2010

Kate Marr, Family LawyerIt was recorded in The West Australian recently that Michael Douglas’ role in the sequel to Wall Street had reopened property proceedings in relation to his divorce from Diandra Douglas that was finalised in 2000.

Diandra Douglas filed an application in a New York Court claiming she is entitled to half of Michael Douglas’ earnings from “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”.  The former couples’ multimillion dollar divorce gave Diandra Douglas the right to share in proceeds from spinoffs and other projects related to work Michael Douglas did while they were married.  Michael Douglas claims that as the sequel was not on the horizon when the couple separated that she is not entitled to proceeds from the latest movie.

Is it ‘just and equitable’ for Michael Douglas’ previous wife to make a claim on his earnings some ten years after his marriage to her had ended? Should parties be able to revisit the courts to again argue about the division of property?

Whilst I understand as a part of the settlement, Michael Douglas was obliged to give his ex wife half of the proceeds from films acquired during their twenty year marriage, however, it does not seem right that she also be entitled to the fruits of his labour some ten years later.

Under Australian Law, the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) states at Section 81:

“..the Court shall, as far as practicable, make such Orders as will finally determine the financial relationships between the parties to the marriage and avoid further proceedings between them”.

Meaning, in relation to alteration of property interests, the Court aims to resolve all financial matters on a final basis that avoids continued obligations and the chance that the dispute continues in Court.

The Australian Courts when determining a property settlement first look at the net asset pool of the parties at the date of the hearing.  In this asset pool, there is no provision to ascribe an amount the party could “potentially” receive, however, the Court could take into account circumstances of potential when assessing future needs  or as a financial resource.  The Court generally takes a cautious approach when considering the “potential” financial resources of a spouse. Is the likelihood of the financial income too remote?

Under Australian law, if determining Michael Douglas’ case, the Court may not have considered the proceeds from a sequel movie to be a relevant issue, unless there were contract negotiations or discussions with producers etc. Such actions could illustrate that the income is more likely than not to be received by him, and therefore should be a consideration when determining an appropriate division of property.

In my view, unless a party failed to provide all information relevant to an issue in the case resulting in a substantially different outcome due to that party’s deception, then and only then, shall an application be made to the Court to vary property orders.  Each party after finalisation of their property settlement matters, should be entitled to earn an income or receive lump sum gifts without fear that their ex spouse will make a claim.

It was reported in MX news on 16 November 2010 that the Judge in a New York Court dismissed Diandra Douglas’ claim for money in relation to the most recent Wall Street movie.  This Judge, however, suggested that she try filing her application in a Californian Court where they were divorced.  Potentially, under Californian  law, Diandra Douglas could have a claim on the sequel to the movie Wall Street.

If you would like advice in relation to negotiating a property settlement or would like us to document your agreement to reduce the likelihood of your spouse making a further claim on your property, please do not hesitate to contact our office for advice.

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