Insights and inspiration
A Doggone Case
30 September 2013
A husband and wife found themselves in the Family Court in Melbourne, where each of them were receiving unemployment benefits, their properties were heavily in debt and mortgagees were pressing for payment. Debts were mounting, and even the family dog had to be handed over to a charity because the family couldn't feed it.
Despite that, the parties still managed to spend legal fees of over $100,000 and were fighting over some interim steps to stave off the financial wreckage. The court had to consider on an interim basis what their financial priorities should be and what money they had should be used for. There were many competing demands including child support, spouse maintenance, legal costs, school fees and debts. The court was placed in a very difficult position trying to balance all these competing demands for two people who could not reach an agreement themselves.
In the end, the judge had to do what the parties should have been able to do - work out their own priorities, and ordered the payment of bank debt, to save at least one item of property, council rates and utilities, and (oddly) $30,000 each to buy cars.
In addition however, on very flimsy evidence, the court had to decide whether at least one of the parties should have some urgent spouse maintenance and child support, on a daily needs basis. The judge made a very arbitrary decision about what that spouse's urgent need was, and gave her enough to get by for six weeks until the court could relook at it on the basis of better information. The judge could not and did not make any allowance for child support.
It is hoped that the dog found a better home.
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