Family Court Eases Injunction Against Wife Using Husband’s Business Funds

Introduction

The case of Cao & Hong [2015] Fam CA 884 (22 October 2015) was heard by Forrest J regarding an application by the wife to vary injunctions that were made by Judge Coates. The parties’ assets totaled at least $200 million, their wealth were being held from numerous structures in Australia and overseas. The wife managed the Australian investments while the husband managed their assets overseas.

Issue

In the current matter, the wife sought to vary the existing restraints because every payment that was made in the management of the Australian companies over $1000 required consent from the husband.

Reasoning

Evidence was accepted to the effect that the wife had considerable difficulty getting the husband to even consider her requests, let alone payment for her personal expenses. Furthermore, the Australian companies had regular monthly payments in the ordinary course of business expenses that well exceeded the $1000 limit.

Counsel for the husband submitted that the wife’s entitlement to access the funds was to be determined pursuant to the spousal maintenance provisions of the Family Law Act (Cth) (‘the Act’). The main issue was that the wife did not meet the threshold of establishing that she was unable to support herself adequately and that she was not truthful when she deposed to not being able to meet her household expenses without reasonable access to the Australian companies’ accounts.

The power to grant the injunctions that Judge Coates put in place is sourced from section 114(3) of the Act and is granted on the premise to protect the property of the parties, pending finalisation of the substantive property adjustment proceedings between the parties.

Conclusion

In considering whether the injunction is ‘just or convenient’, Forrest J did not consider it as a case where the wife is seeking orders that the husband pay her spousal maintenance or the access to funds to pay her reasonable legal fees. Forrest J ultimately held that the injunctions that were imposed by Judge Coates imposed consequences upon the wife that were neither just nor convenient.

As such, Forrest J varied the injunction to enable the wife to withdraw funds from any personal accounts or accounts of the Australian companies in excess of $10,000 as opposed to the much smaller sum of $1000 without the consent of the other party. Exceptions were also put in place where the wife is allowed to withdraw personal and household expenses of up to $15,000 per month and for legal fees with a limit of $200,000.

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