saraYour first marriage did not succeed but you have now found a partner with whom you want to share the remainder of your life with. You both have children from a previous marriage but no children together. Your only asset is the matrimonial home and life is pretty comfortable.

What happens when either you or your spouse need to leave the matrimonial home due to ill health? Who is going to pay the costs when the cash is tied up in the matrimonial home? What happens when adult children become concerned for the welfare of their parent, not the marriage?

This was a question for the Full Court of the Family Court to determine in the matter of Stanford & Stanford [2011] Fam CAFC 208 after the children appeared on behalf of their parents.  The facts of this case were that the husband and wife were aged 87 and 89 respectfully. They had been married for 40 years, each having been married previously and each having adult children.

The wife was the husband’s carer for a number of years in the matrimonial home after he suffered 2 strokes. On 30 December 2008, the wife suffered a stroke herself and had to remain in full time residential care. The husband had recovered well from his strokes and he was able to remain in the former matrimonial home. He visited his wife three times per week and placed $40,000 into a trust account for her use.

The parties still were married but separated due to the ill health of the wife. The wife was in a nursing home which was paid for by her pension however her children were not happy with the level of care that she was receiving. Her children wanted to move the wife into a nursing home that required a $300,000 bond. The difficulty was that all funds of the wife were held in the matrimonial home and the husband did not want to sell as he was still able to live there.

In that regard, the Full Court of the Family Court had to decide whether it had the jurisdiction and the power to order that assets be divided when the marriage had not ended.

After much consideration the Full Court found that it did have the power to make Orders in circumstances whereby the elements of the marriage were gone despite the parties still being married. The Court outlined that it had to be just and equitable to make such an Order to ensure that both parties had the adequate support and financial provisions.

This is a significant case for those couples who have entered into second marriages and their funds have intermingled. Adult children may often seek to be involved to ensure that what they think is the best for their parent even if it may be to the detriment of that parent’s spouse.

If you have entered into a second marriage and want to protect your assets, or make provisions in the future for events such as above, please contact us to make an appointment because at Everingham Solomons we have the experience and expertise to assist you because Helping You is Our Business

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