The Family Law Court granted a wife’s request for funds that she could use to pay monthly expenses until a property settlement was finalised. The parties asked the Family Law Court for interim orders that would resolve property disputes until the court could determine a final property settlement.
The husband and wife were both born in “Country D” (the court used an abbreviation to avoid an inadvertent disclosure of their identities). They migrated to Australia at separate times and each became citizens.
The wife began a relationship with the husband in 1986 while she was still married to her first husband, whom she divorced in 1995. The husband and wife have three children together, all of whom are now adults.
The husband and wife married in 1996. The husband returned to Country D in 1997. The wife stayed in Australia and managed their Australian investments. They decided to separate in 2014.
The husband and wife own a number of businesses in Australia and Country D. Their wealth is in the neighbourhood of $200,000,000. About $27,000,000 is held in Australian companies. They also own property in their own names in both countries.
The husband earned an income of $1,800 a week and had about $700,000 cash on hand from dividends that his companies in Country D recently paid. The wife claimed expenses of about $20,000 per month and generally depended on drawing funds from the Australian companies to pay them.
The wife commenced proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court, seeking interim orders to protect her property interests after the husband took action to remove her from her directorships of some Australian companies. The Federal Circuit Court entered certain restraining orders to preserve the status quo before transferring the case to the Family Law Court.
In the Family Law Court, the wife complained that the restraining orders severely restricted her access to funds that she needed to pay her living expenses. She deemed those orders to be unfair since the husband continued to have access to funds held by companies in Country D.
In particular, the wife asked the court to change an order that required her to obtain her husband’s consent before she could receive a payment of more than $1,000 from any of the Australian companies. The wife told the court that her husband was refusing to consider her requests, leaving her without sufficient income to meet her personal expenses and without adequate compensation for her management role in those companies.
The court viewed the wife’s application as one for a property adjustment rather than for spousal support. The court determined that the husband had acquiesced for many years in his wife’s payment of personal expenses, including her contribution to the support of the parties’ adult children, from funds drawn from the Australian businesses.
The judge accepted the wife’s sworn claim that she did not have enough money to pay her legal fees or her personal expenses, in light of the restrictions that the restraining order placed on her income. Notably, the husband had no similar shortage of funds, having arranged for millions of dollars in lines of credit to be available through the Country D businesses without asking or obtaining the wife’s approval to incur new debt.
The court considered the wife’s expenses of $20,000 per month to be excessive and determined that a budget of $15,000 per month would be adequate. The court allowed her to withdraw funds to meet that budget. The court also provided that neither party should withdraw funds from a business in excess of $10,000 without the consent of the other party. Finally, the court provided that the parties could have access to funds of up to $200,000 to pay their legal fees.