Property Settlement and Care for Special Needs Child
A recent Court case has considered the adjustment a Wife should receive in a property settlement for her contribution and future responsibility for the care of the couple’s severely disabled child.
- The parties married in 1981 and separated in early 2004.
- The Husband was 51 years of age and earned over $147,000 per year. The Wife was 48 years of age. She suffered arthritis in both hands. The Wife’s only income was from a carer’s pension.
- There were two children of the marriage. A 24 year old daughter who lived independently and an 18 year old son who was profoundly disabled. The disabled son since his birth had been substantially cared for by the Wife.
- Since 2000 the son had been completely bedridden and required 24 hour care. He was unable to do anything to assist himself and had uncontrolled muscle movements.
- Since separation the son had been cared for by the Wife, without any assistance by the Husband.
- The matrimonial property was valued at $427,698, this compromised primarily of equity in the former matrimonial property and the Husband’s Superannuation.
- For the Wife’s care of the son to that point, she was awarded a 15% adjustment for (non-financial) contribution made during the marriage.
- The Court found that the son had complex, high support needs as a result of his disability. The Wife as his carer would therefore not have the opportunity to re-enter the workforce and would likely have a lesser lifestyle to that of the Husband. The Wife therefore received a further adjustment for ‘future needs’ factors of 25%.
- The Wife received 90% of the property pool available for distribution. This comprised of the former matrimonial home and a cash payment from the Husband, in the amount of $28,000. The Court was minded to provide the Wife with cash rather than superannuation, stating that because of the Wife’s circumstances the most important consideration was the security of a home.
- The Husband pay to the Wife on behalf of the child, ‘adult child maintenance’ in the sum of $319 per week for the rest of the child’s life. The Federal Magistrate did not Order ongoing spousal maintenance.