From STUFF today (7 May 2014)
A woman says she should not be responsible for half her former husband’s secret borrowings against their million-dollar family home. The woman thought they had a debt-free home and they even had a party to celebrate paying it off, the Court of Appeal was told today.
Court hearings have refined the issues over the way the former couple’s property should be split, but she still balks at having half the bank debt he incurred coming out of her share of the property. He had borrowed about $137,000. Neither does she want to compensate him for half the value of $120,000 she secretly put into a trust intended for their daughter.
After a career in the police, she built a successful business and was the main breadwinner for the family while her husband had irregular earnings from what one judge described as “somewhat fitfully” working as a tradesman. The husband also had distributions from his father’s “substantial” family trust. Over 18 years before the couple separated in 2008, she had a taxable income of $1.78 million while his was $52,000. But the husband had received up to $744,000 from his family’s trust, and the wife received other payments of about $160,000.
Two courts have refused the woman’s request for an unequal sharing of the relationship property. She has asked the Court of Appeal to hear her appeal on specific parts of the division, including whether she has to pay half the bank loan and pay him for the money that went into the trust for their daughter.
In Wellington today, the court reserved its decision.
The Family Court and the High Court have both refused to fence off the bank debt as being only the husband’s.
It was decided that he had used the money for the benefit of both in the course of managing the household affairs and bringing up the couple’s daughter.
He said he was too embarrassed to tell her that he had to keep borrowing.
The couple’s daughter, now in her 20s, has a health condition that means she may not be able to work.
Without her husband’s knowledge in 2006, the woman had put $120,000 into a trust set up to benefit the daughter and failed to refer to the money in the first eight formal statements she made in the relationship property dispute with her husband.
The Family Court found that putting the money into the trust had been intended to defeat any claim the husband had to it. As a result, the woman was ordered to pay him $66,250. The couple were not named in public documents relating to their dispute.
It seems “equality” is coming home to roost; well in the marriage property settlement sector at least. Clearly the winners here are the lawyers; this woman just won’t accept that what’s good for a man is good for a woman too….so she keeps going to court.