Melbourne Cup is that time of year where even ordinary Australians like to have a gamble. In the context of matrimonial breakdowns, the odd flutter here and there has some discernable impact on the division of property settlement interests.
There are situations where the gambling is so chronic and has such an impact on a family’s finances, that it can be very relevant to a determination of what is a just and equitable property settlement.
There are many factors that influence the Court in assessing how to treat losses from gambling during a relationship and these include the following:-
- The extent of the gambling and whether it’s taken place over a long period of time or over a shorter period;
- The length of the relationship;
- Other contributions made by both parties during the course of the relationship;
- Size of any gambling losses compared to the size of the matrimonial estate;
- Whether the other spouse knew of the gambling addiction;
- Whether there is any medical explanation (depression) that puts such gambling losses in context and/or explains the behaviour of the gambling spouse.
There is no guarantee that in any given case, that every single gambling loss will be added up and notionally added back into a property pool.
Spouses who have separated from a gambling spouse should be very concerned about the spouses ongoing gambling and seek urgent advice from a Specialist Family Lawyer about ways in which to protect the matrimonial estate.
The above warning to the non-gambling spouse is even more important having regard to the High Court’s decision in the case of Stanford. Since this case, there has been a reluctance in the Family Court to “notionally” add back into the asset pool assets and/or property that no longer exist. For example, prior to Stanford’s decision, spouses would often quantify the gambling losses and that would be notionally attributed to the other spouse as part of their settlement. One could hardly argue with that as being a fair outcome.
However, the High Court case has made it clear that the Family Court can only consider the existing legal and equitable interests in property of both spouses. If a spouse has been reckless and gambled money away then the money simply doesn’t exist now and it’s arguable that the concept of “notional” property created by the Family Court is dead and buried.
A spouse who is aware that the other spouse from whom they are separated does have a gambling problem, should act urgently to try to look at options that may be available to protect the further dissipation of the matrimonial estate before it’s too late.
If you are concerned about a possible gambling problem that could impact your property settlement, contact us for a confidential discussion with one of our Family Law Experts.