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Some of my reported & unreported Cases


This is just a small sample of the many cases of interest I have been involved in since 1988:



Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the Appellant father led by Robert Lethbridge SC)


FAMILY LAW – APPEAL – CHILDREN – RELOCATION – Where the father appeals against final parenting orders which permit the mother to relocate the child to Germany – Where the grounds of appeal challenge findings, the exercise of discretion and weight given to various factors – Whether the primary judge erred in his consideration of the parties’ competing proposals – Whether the primary judge erred in his application of s 60CC(2)(a) of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) – Whether the primary judge erred in his evaluation of expert evidence – Whether the primary judge made errors of fact – Where the exercise of making parenting orders for the future is discretionary as per U v U (2002) 211 CLR 238 – Where the primary judge is not bound to accept the evidence of the family consultant – Where the findings made by the primary judge were open on the evidence – Appeal dismissed.

FAMILY LAW – APPEAL – STAY – Where the father appeals against refusal to grant a stay of orders pending the determination of his relocation appeal – Where primary appeal will be dismissed – No utility in stay appeal – Appeal dismissed.

FAMILY LAW – COSTS – Where both appeals dismissed and the father has been wholly unsuccessful – Where an order for costs would impede the father’s ability to meet travel costs associated with the parenting orders – Mother’s application for costs dismissed.

ALAIM & ALAIM [2017] FamCAFC 170

Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the Appellant husband)


FAMILY LAW – APPEAL –­ whether the primary judge erred in the structure of the orders ultimately made – whether the primary judge failed to make orders to give effect to findings – whether the primary judge erred in making orders by reference to both fixed sums and percentages – where the final orders did not provide for the discharge or refinance of existing mortgages upon the transfer of property – where such error could be remedied pursuant to the “slip rule” or by consent pursuant to s 79A(1A) – whether the primary judge erred in assessing the husband’s contributions – whether the primary judge erred in assessing the wife’s future needs pursuant to s 75(2) – whether the result was manifestly unjust – where no material error demonstrated.

FAMILY LAW – APPLICATION IN AN APPEAL –– leave granted to rely on amended grounds of appeal – application to adduce further evidence dismissed.

FAMILY LAW – COSTS – where the appellant is ordered to pay the wife’s costs.


Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the Respondent mother with Mr L. Reeves)


FAMILY LAW – APPEAL – CHILDREN – Where the father appeals against interim parenting orders suspending his time with the child – Where the mother and Independent Children’s Lawyer conceded that the appeal should be allowed – Where the primary judge erred in finding that there was a risk of harm to the child that would warrant the suspension of time – Where the trial judge failed to consider other options which might have enabled the child to regularly spend time with the father in a safe setting – Orders set aside – Proceedings remitted for re-hearing.

FAMILY LAW – COSTS – Costs Certificates – Where the appeal was finalised by consent – Where an order for costs as between the parties would not be appropriate – Whether appropriate to grant cost certificates – Cost certificates granted to the parties and Independent Children’s Lawyer for the appeal and the re-hearing.

Vega & Riggs [2015] FamCA 797

Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the wife)

FAMILY LAW – PROPERTY – Where the wife filed an application in the Supreme Court of NSW for an order pursuant to s 66G Conveyancing Act 1919 (NSW) – Whether there are extant proceedings under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) – Where the issue arises as to whether the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear the s 66G application – Where an application to transfer the family law proceedings to the Supreme Court is dismissed and the husband’s s 44(3) application is expedited.



Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the Executor of the wife's estate)

FAMILY LAW – INTERIM – JURISDICTION – CROSS-VESTING – Whether proceedings should be transferred to Supreme Court of New South Wales – Where the parties are engaged in several pieces of litigation in different courts – Whether transfer “in the interests of justice” – Consideration of s 5(4) of the Jurisdiction of Courts (Cross-vesting Act) 1987 - Where a judge of the Supreme Court refused an application to have related proceedings transferred to this Court – Where it is found that those proceedings involve a similar substratum of facts as an important issue in the family law proceedings – Where it is found to be in the interests of justice for the matter to be transferred to the Supreme Court.


ADAMSON and ADAMSON, 2 December, 2014 [unreported]

Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the Respondent father)

This was a case where a father sought and obtained from the trial judge an order requiring the mother and child M to relocate to the same general region where the father had moved to live.  The child was almost 4 years of age when the orders were made.  Both parents agreed that there should be equal shared parental responsibility.  The parties agreed that it was in the best interests of the child to live with her mother primarily, something which the Full Court regarded as significant.

 The Full Court concluded that the power to make a coercive order to require a parent to relocate, although available, can only be made if it is a "legitimate exercise" of power. In practical terms it meant that orders of this type should rarely be made and probably only in very exceptional circumstances.  The orders made by the trial judge were supported both by the court's expert and the independent children's lawyer, the Full Court concluded that this was not such an exceptional case.

 Their Honours also provided a helpful discussion about the application of sec 65DAA of the Family Law Act to applications of this nature, in particular their assessment about the impact that "reasonable practicality" has upon an application of this type.  In this case the Full Court found that the towns where each parent had chosen to live were not open to criticism and indeed were separated by distance of about only 140 km.  The appeal was upheld and the case referred back for rehearing.


DANSON & DANSON AND ANOR (NO.2) [2012] FamCA 1143

Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the Applicant husband)

FAMILY LAW – INTERIM PROPERTY ORDER – Spouse maintenance – Whether there is a demonstrated need by the wife – Where wife entitled to half rental income from a jointly owned property.


HURST & WEBER [2009] FamCAFC 137

Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the Appellant wife)


FAMILY LAW - APPEAL – FROM A DECISION OF A FEDERAL MAGISTRATE – PROPERTY SETTLEMENT – Short marriage – Wife’s application for property settlement was dismissed at trial – The wife’s litigation and other debts left her in a negative asset position – The husband’s net assets exceeded two million dollars in value – Federal Magistrate stated that the order left the wife in substantially the same position as when cohabitation commenced – Debt for litigation loan meant that the Federal Magistrate erred in so concluding – Mere absence of percentage apportionment on the basis of contributions is not an error of approach
FAMILY LAW - APPEAL – FROM A DECISION OF A FEDERAL MAGISTRATE – PROPERTY SETTLEMENT - Federal Magistrate accepted the expert value of the husband’s share options – Treated the options as a financial resource, not as property – (per Warnick and Boland JJ) Federal Magistrate did not make a finding that the options were not property – No error in the approach taken, proportion of option value to the asset pool means inclusion as property as against treatment as a financial resource would not make a difference.
(per O’Ryan J) The share options were property and as such it was not open to the Federal Magistrate to treat them as a financial resource – Important distinction is that between property and financial resources, not ‘assets’ and financial resources – Appeal allowed
Parties sought re-exercise of discretion – wife to receive $100,000 from husband – release of security for costs to the wife
FAMILY LAW - COSTS – certificates in relation to the appeal granted to each party


Family Court of Australia (Appearing for the Applicant Husband)

FAMILY LAW – PROPERTY – Distribution of property – whether distributions by one party as “alter ego” of a trust is money owed by that party or by the trust (in either legal or equitable terms) – effective distinction of different business valuations conducted on either a “net assets” basis or “maintainable earnings” basis – effect of “maintainable earnings” basis valuation was to render certain transactions outside of the property pool.

FAMILY LAW – PROPERTY – ADD‑BACKS – whether legal fees of either party should be added‑back – distinction drawn between treatment of husband and wife’s legal fees because of the sources of funding relating to those fees – whether tax debts of one party should be included as liability where evidence about tax debts not established by evidence.

CRESTIN & CRESTIN & ORS (2008) FLC ¶ 93-368

Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia (28 May 2008) (Appeared for the Respondent Mother at the trial at first instance)

This was an Appeal against a decision by Steele J. who was found by the Full Court to have denied the Respondent Mother natural justice.  There was an error by the trial judge in failing to produce brief reasons as the transcript did not adequately reveal his reasoning process that it was in the child's best interests to make orders which he did for time to be spent with the paternal grandparents each weekend.  


BURGESS v. KING (2006) DFC ¶ 95-328 

NSW Court of Appeal delivered 18 November 2005 (Appeared for the Appellant)

The failure to of the trial judge (Young J.) to consider the possibility of the plaintiff sharing in the capital increase of the defendant's home to which he had contributed financially and/or the giving of erroneous reasons for rejecting it was an error sufficient to justify appellate intervention. 


PIERCE, LA v PIERCE, EA (1999) FLC ¶ 92-844

Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia at Sydney Judgment delivered 10 June 1998 (Appeared for the appellant husband) 

This important case is an often cited for the following proposition:

"In our opinion it is not so much a matter of erosion of contribution but a question of what is to be attached, in all the circumstances, to the initial contribution. It is necessary to weigh the initial contributions by the party with all other relevant contributions of husband and wife. In considering the weight to be attached to the initial contribution, in the case of the husband, regard must be had to the use made by the parties of that contribution. In the present case that use was the substantial contribution to the purchase price of the matrimonial home."



Family Court of Australia at Sydney Judgment delivered 23 October 1997, Chisholm J. (Appeared for the husband)

In determining the intention of the wife's parents in providing a benefit to the parties, judicial notice may be taken of the fact that parents frequently make provision for their children in a manner which does not involve the formulation or consideration of whether they intend to benefit their own child, or both parties to the marriage: see Gosper and Gosper (1987) FLC ¶ 91-818; Kessey and Kessey (1994) FLC ¶ 92-495; (1994) 18 Fam LR 149; Rickaby and Rickaby (1995) FLC ¶ 92-642; (1995) 19 Fam LR 814, which were considered.


 P v P (1995) FLC ¶ 92-615

High Court of Australia Judgment delivered 20 April 1994 (Appeared for the wife led by D.F. Jackson Q.C.)

The High Court decided that  the Family Law Act 1975 confers power  on the Family Court of Australia the power to make an order authorising a person to carry out on a child of a marriage medical treatment in New South Wales that is intended, or is reasonably likely, to have the effect of rendering the child permanently infertile, in circumstances where the carrying out of the treatment would otherwise be contrary to the Guardianship Act 1987 (NSW)?


In the matter of P (a child)  (1993) FLC ¶ 92-376

Appeal Division of the Family Court of Australia at Melbourne Judgment delivered 23 April 1993 (Appeared for the wife)

While natural justice will require that parents are given all reasonable opportunity to present the evidence relevant to support their "case" it will not justify an unlimited right to have a child medically examined so at the expense of the interests of the children.


BLACK v. BLACK (1991) DFC ¶ 95-113

NSW Court of Appeal delivered 14 November 1991 (Appeared for the Respondent)

This case at the time was a milestone as it dealt with fundamental issues like how to treat home-maker contributions, presumptions of equality in long relationships and the application of Family Law Act cases to property proceedings between unmarried couples.


MAGRO, P.A. and MAGRO, R.M. (1989) FLC ¶ 92-005

Family Court of Australia at Parramatta. Judgment delivered 10 February 1989, Rourke J. (Appeared for the wife)

One of the first significant solicitor conflict of interest cases in the Family Court. 



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