Danger of property mediation and agreements without legal advice: part 1

Danger of property mediation and agreements without legal advice: part 1

A recent Queensland case is a telling warning for those undertaking property mediations where they have not had legal advice, and to ensure that when signing agreements with your de facto partner to get legal advice first.

In the case, SPD v DRH, the de facto wife, DRH controlled SPD and did whatever she could to ensure that he was paid zip, or at best a nominal amount.

She did this by a number of ways:

  • overstated her initial contributions-which would also have the effect of lowering his contributions
  • claimed, falsely, that the relationship had ended earlier than it had, so as to justify her taking $50,000 after that earlier date from their monies without telling him
  • of course removed that $50,000, so that he could not have access to it
  • made out to him that to keep the relationship going, he needed to transfer his half interest in the home to her (which he did), but at trial claimed that this merely reflected their agreement about the division of the property settlement
  • got him to sign an agreement then to say that the house was hers. He did not have legal advice at the time.
  • got him to sign a deed shortly after they got together to say that she would get 90% of the property- the deed being based on a false premise- the amount of her initial contributions
  • but worst of all, took him to Relationships Australia for a mediation, and got him signed up at the mediation. Again, he did not have any legal advice. This agreement excluded virtually all of their property, including the house, and was based on a 72.5/27.5 division, to give him $5000 within 24 hours!

But that’s not all, the de facto wife also:

  • kept control of the house, after they separated; and
  • when she thought it a bit rich that he was asking for property settlement, complained to Channel 7, complaining about how he had breached their agreement and was now taking her to court.

The result? The trial judge did not believe the de facto wife, held the agreements were not binding, and ordered that the de facto wife pay the de facto husband $260,000 within 60 days, failing which the home would have to be sold.

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Family Law Section Law Council of Australia Award
Member of Queensland law society
Family law Practitioners Association
International Academy of Family Lawyers - IAFL
Mediator Standards Board