Australia: She made his life a misery but still wanted part of his estate – which case won?

Last Updated: 25 April 2018
Article by Kate Byrne

The Facts

They met in 1984, when he was a doctor and she was his patient. They had a daughter in 1986 and married in 1988, but the marriage lasted only 19 months.

Separation, divorce, property settlement and appeal

The couple officially divorced in 1995 and the Family Court made orders awarding the former wife $164,000, which equated to about 38% of the asset pool of the parties.

She appealed this decision, but the appeal was dismissed. She then phoned her former husband and threatened to "destroy his life" and "make his life a misery" if he did not pay her an additional sum.

Ex-wife proceeds to carry out threats

She carried out her threats in a campaign of what the court described as "relentless hostility" and "relentless persecution" of her ex-husband, taking professional disciplinary action against him, applying for reviews of child support, initiating legal action against him for damages and refusing to allow him to see his daughter.

In addition, she complained to police and sought an apprehended violence order against her ex-husband. Those proceedings were dismissed. The ex-wife also alleged that her husband had sexually abused their daughter. The husband was interviewed by police at that time and no further action was taken.

Man dies intestate

In 2014 he died intestate, that is, without a valid will. He had only been married once and their daughter was his only child. While the man had instructed his lawyers to draw up a will, he had never executed it.

The draft will set out his reasons for not leaving anything to his ex-wife, among them that she made "many and false allegations against me which were proved groundless and made a false complaint against me to the police alleging that I had sexually abused my daughter and these allegations have caused me great distress".

Former spouse makes claim on late ex-husband's estate 25 years after separation

Under the laws of intestacy, the deceased's daughter was entitled to the whole of his estate, which was worth approximately $5 million. The daughter was estranged from her mother when her father died and her mother demanded that part of the estate be distributed to her. She claimed she required funds to purchase a property to live in and for future medical costs. At the time of trial she was unemployed and relied upon a disability support pension.

Case a - The case for the ex-wife Case b - The case for the daughter as administratrix of the estate
  • My ex-husband was able to accumulate the wealth he did precisely because I did all the caring for our daughter after our divorce. The breakup also had long lasting consequences for me that further reduced my ability to generate wealth.
  • My ex-husband understated his income in the Family Court proceedings, which amounts to fraud, suppression of evidence and/or non-disclosure. I would have received a much larger settlement if he had told the truth.
  • My ex-husband had an obligation to leave me a share of the estate to atone for his professional misconduct in engaging in an improper sexual relationship with me while he was my physician, causing me psychiatric injury.
  • I have significant health problems and substantial financial need. It's unfair that my daughter should get everything when I was the one who raised her on my own.
  • For all these reasons my ex-husband had a moral obligation to provide for me. His estate is ample and warrants provision being made for me.
  • Following separation and divorce, my parents never resumed their relationship and neither was dependent on the other.
  • My father was wealthy because of prudent decisions and many years of hard work, whereas my mother's financial predicament is due to her spending vast sums on unsuccessful litigation and making poor lifestyle choices.
  • If my mother genuinely believed that my father had understated his income in the Family Court proceedings or that she had rights against him for psychiatric injury, there were legal avenues available to her that she could have taken while he was alive, but she did not do this.
  • My father had always complied meticulously with his obligations to provide financial support for me, despite my mother's persecution of him by all imaginable means.
  • My father had no further obligation, moral or otherwise, to provide for his ex-wife after their divorce was finalised by the court.

So, which case won?
Cast your judgment below to find out

Vote case A – the case for the ex-wife
Vote case B – the case for the daughter as administratrix of the estate

Kate Byrne
Disputed estates
Stacks Law Firm

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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