In The Full Court of the Family Court of Australia decision of Gao & Wang (2016) FLC 93-735 the Court was asked to consider the appeal of a de facto wife against property orders . Previously the trial judge had made orders awarding the husband 71% of the assets available at the time of the hearing after finding evidence that the wife had hidden or gambled away funds totalling $1.25m.
At the request of the parties the trial judge had approached the task of dividing the parties’ assets on an asset by asset basis and not by constructing a pool of assets. The trial judge followed her understanding of the principles put forward by the High Court in Stanford & Stanford (2012) FLC 93-518, stating:
“Following Stanford ……the court is required to take into account all the relevant matters and then determine what order, if any, is just and equitable.”
While the Full Court did not approve this particular interpretation they were unable to find any error with the way in which the trial judge approached and determined the case.
The Court agreed that there was evidence that the wife had hidden or gambled away $1.25m.
Despite the wife claiming that the living expenses of her and the children exceeded her income from the time of separation until the time of the trial, she provided no evidence in support of this. The trial judge was therefore unable to take this into account when adjusting the property interests of the parties and the missing $1.25m remained unexplained.
Despite not approving with the trial judge’s interpretation of Stanford, the Full Court dismissed the wife’s appeal and the property orders remained unchanged.