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Update on Bevan & Bevan
11 March 2014
In a recent case Bevan & Bevan  the Court upheld the parties' long standing informal agreement that the wife keep all of the marital property.
The husband left the relationship after 22 years of marriage to travel the world, while the wife was left to deal with the family, financial crisis, protracted litigation with a relative, two little children and the husband's elderly mother. All these circumstances would not matter, the Court said, if the parties formalised their agreement to divide their property in those 16 years preceding the litigation. But they didn't. Moreover, all those years the husband assured the wife he wanted nothing of their assets.
However, having failed to re-establish himself financially in his new life, the husband filed a property application in the Family Court.
In support of his claim the husband was able to demonstrate his significant contributions to the property preceding the separation, as well as the fact that the parties to a certain extent were still intermingling their finances over the following years. The Court also took into account that at the age of 68 and having some health difficulties, although still earning a good income, the husband was, probably, nearing the end of his working career. The Court further noted he had no material assets, while his debts were extensive.
Balanced against these matters, the wife was nearly 66 years of age and also had limited earning prospects.
Does the outcome of this case mean that any informal understanding between spouses would be conclusive of any later dispute? The Court said it did not. However, it was an important factor to be taken into account in deciding whether it would be just and equitable for the Court to alter the status quo.
Ultimately, the husband's substantial delay in instituting the proceedings and the long standing agreement between the parties were such that the Court concluded it would not be just and equitable to interfere with the existing property interests.
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