An Australian woman with an English ex-husband is disappointed that her appeal to apply for financial relief as part of a divorce settlement has been turned down by the High Court, says Family Law Week.

The couple married in 2006 and lived in the UK but separated in 2008, after the birth of a daughter. The woman had permanent right of residence in the UK but chose instead to return to Australia with the child, although she claims that she was forced to do so, in light of her husband’s abusive behaviour. During this time, the couple agreed on matters of spousal maintenance, child maintenance and capital division, despite Australian divorce law citing that couples do not need to attend court to formally agree financial orders.

The matter could have ended there. However, around 2011, the woman concluded that she had been short-changed by these agreements, and asked the Australian court to set aside the orders, citing the reasons as alleged duress, poor legal advice and non-disclosure on the part of her husband. It took four years for a judgement to be given, but in the end, her application was dismissed.

Having had no satisfaction from the Australian legal system, she applied to the High Court in England in her bid to amend her financial order agreement with her husband. The case was heard by Parker J who also dismissed her application.
Finally, in the Court of Appeal, Lady Justice Black also heard the case. She accepted that there had been errors of judgement on behalf of Parker J. However, she concluded that Parker J had been completely within her rights to hold an inter parties hearing and there was no new evidence of non-disclosure as claimed by the wife. In addition, claims that Australian law had permitted inadequate financial provision were dismissed on the ground that the duress allegation had been rejected in Australia, indicating that the agreements had been fair at the time they were made.

The woman’s application to appeal against the decision made in the High Court was therefore dismissed.

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