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High Court Ends the Pole Dancer Litigation
30 June 2014
In an earlier newsdesk item (13 January 2014) we reported on the Full Court decision of Wallace v Stelzer, colloquially known as the "pole dancer case" because the husband met his second wife, Ms Stelzer, at what the Trial Judge described as "an adult entertainment venue where the wife was working as a dancer".
At the time of that report we and other family lawyers believed that the long running litigation had finally come to an end.
However following the Full Court decision, the husband applied to the High Court of Australia for special leave to appeal and the subject of the special leave application was the Federal Government's 2009 amendments to the Family Law Act that were designed to safe financial agreements with technical defects such as this one (Wallace v Stelzer  HCATrans 135).
Briefly, the Full Court found that while the Federal Government's 2009 amendments to the law were poorly drafted, it could find an interpretation that was sensible, and suited the objects of the act to cure agreements rather than to strike them down. The Full Court adopted that approach. It also found that there was nothing wrong with the legislature making retrospective provisions that would save agreements entered into before the legislation.
In seeking special leave to appeal, the husband's Queens Counsel argued that the 2009 amendments should be read literally. On a literal reading of the amendments, it was submitted, the 2009 amendments did not affect an agreement entered into at the time of the husband's agreement, and therefore the husband's agreement was still defective and ought to have been set aside.
Sadly for Mr Wallace, the High Court was not persuaded by the arguments, and the special leave application was refused with costs. This time it really is all over, bar the shouting.
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