The recent Family Court case of Higgins & Higgins addressed a unique situation in which the Applicant Husband, Mr Higgins, had initially engaged the Respondent Wife, Ms Higgins, as an escort and married her a number of years later.
In 2006, the parties met in Queensland after Mr Higgins responded to an advertisement posted by Ms Higgins for her escort services. The parties were involved in what the Court described as a “commercial arrangement” whereby Ms Higgins was paying Mr Higgins fees for her time, buying her gifts and paying for her plastic surgery. Ms Higgins lived with her de facto partner and her daughter from that relationship. Mr Higgins was aware of this.
Until 2010, the parties both resided separately in Queensland. In 2010, Mr Higgins sold his Queensland based business and decided to move to Melbourne. He told Ms Higgins that he wanted her to move to Melbourne as well so that they could continue their arrangement. She agreed to do so if Mr Higgins purchased a property for her and that the property was registered in her sole name. Mr Higgins agreed and the parties continued their relationship in Melbourne, living in two nearby properties purchased by Mr Higgins.
While the parties agreed that they were never in a de facto relationship, they married in 2012 and separated in June 2015. In December 2015, Mr Higgins issued family law proceedings against Ms Higgins in relation to property matters, seeking an adjustment of property interests relating to the property in Ms Higgins’ name. Ms Higgins was seeking to retain the property unencumbered in her sole name and receive lump sum spousal maintenance in the amount of $341,978.
During the course of proceedings, Mr Higgins agreed to provide $100,000 to Ms Higgins by way of part property settlement and $80,000 of what appeared to be interim lump sum spousal maintenance.
The Court did not make orders for the adjustment of property interests of the parties, which meant that Ms Higgins was able to retain the unencumbered property her name which was purchased by Mr Higgins.
The Court did not consider that Ms Higgins was entitled to receive spousal maintenance from Mr Higgins. The Court ordered Ms Higgins to repay Mr Higgins $180,000 which had been previously paid to her during the course of proceedings.
At , Justice Cronin stated that “there is no evidence of her pursuing employment opportunities that are beyond her physical grasp as a result of transport difficulties to outer Melbourne areas. There is no evidence to show that she could not sell the house and live more cheaply or even rent a property.”
As experienced family lawyers, Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers can assist you with your family law matters, even if you think your situation is complex or very unique. We recommend that you make an appointment to see one of our lawyers to discuss your situation so that you can obtain tailored and strategic legal advice which is suitable to your circumstances.
By Michelle Petrovski