Wife gets a bigger divorce payout because she claimed abuse

by Kate Marr on June 28, 2010

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The Family Court has taken into account ongoing domestic violence a wife endured and the post traumatic stress she suffered at the hands of her husband when determining a property settlement. (Sydney Morning Herald 15 June 2010)
The couple had been together for about seven years before marrying in 2003. They separated in 2005. The husband had assaulted the wife, stalked her and threatened to kill her. He breached 22 orders made for the protection of the wife.
The property pool primarily consisted of their home worth about $309,000.
The husband was seeking 50% of the equity in home. He had contributed a greater amount of money towards the purchase of the home. The wife’s lawyers argued that the continuous and ongoing violence to which she was subjected to by the husband made her contributions much more onerous.
The Court was satisfied that the violence made it an exceptional case and the husband’s greater initial contribution is outweighed by the wife’s subsequent contributions. It was also ordered that the wife should receive 67.5% of the property pool.
The issue then arises; Should the conduct of the parties during the marriage be relevant when determining property interests?
Until recently, violence and its effects within the family has been downplayed or even ignored in divorce proceedings.
But there is a growing argument that violence should be acknowledged by the Court in exceptional circumstances.
Family Courts have a way to go, to encourage women to raise allegations of abuse, according to a report released by the Minister for Women, Jodi McKay. The report, No way to live: Women’s experiences of negotiating the family law system in the context of domestic violence was launched on June 23 and reported in Lawyers Weekly.
Women who took part in the study reported that their claims of abuse were often viewed as fabrications. The report backed the recommendations of the Family Law Council, that the definition of family violence should include a broader range of threatening and controlling behaviours.

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