Mary* was very distraught when she contacted North Queensland Women's Legal Service (NQWLS). Her husband of 26 years, Alan, had just told her that their marriage was over. He was leaving her for a woman he had been secretly communicating with on the internet. Mary is 72 years of age and her only income is the age pension. Alan is 55 years of age, and in good health.
Alan told Mary that he had resigned from his long term job and was to receive his long service leave entitlements within days and he was moving to Adelaide. He said he was taking his collection of valuable coins, his boat and his car - the only marital assets of any value. He was leaving Mary with the debt to Radio Rentals for their furniture and the credit card debt, also in Mary’s name. Although he was on the lease for the rental house, Alan said the rental payments would be Mary’s sole responsibility, once he was gone. Mary told him she couldn’t keep up the payments and the rent on her own. She couldn’t afford to move either. Alan just said that she ‘would figure something out’.
Mary knew once he was gone she would have no way of contacting him except by his mobile phone number, which he may change. Mary faced a real risk of homelessness as she knew she would probably lose her bond and then have no money to move into a cheaper rental property. She worried she would lose her furniture as well because she had no money for removals or storage.
NQWLS helped Mary file an application in the Federal Circuit Court seeking orders that Alan provide her a lump sum payment from his employment payout and a restraint from him selling the only assets of any value. It was important to get Mary filed quickly, so that she could serve Alan before he skipped town to an unknown address.
But the story doesn’t stop there! After being served with the court papers, Alan said he still intended to go and that he would spend every cent he had and she would get nothing. NQWLS then helped Mary to file a further application to bring the matter on urgently. The Court obliged and listed the matter within the two-day time frame requested. Alan attended Court and gave an undertaking to preserve the money he had just received from his previous employer and orders were made restraining him from selling the other assets.
At least now, Mary had a fair chance to establish a smaller, affordable home base for herself and move on with her life as best she could on her own.
*Not her real name