It is not often that we beat our chest and bang our own drum, but 2016 has certainly been a year in which Hartley Healy have achieved some significant victories for their clients.
Our most impressive victory came very recently in a complex parenting matter, spearheaded by our Senior Associate, Debra Effeney and Associate, Denni Rogers.
In this case, we acted for a young mother who was trying to defend an Application by the child’s father in a complex parenting matter.
Our client had run out of funds and was faced with the prospect of engaging in a three day complex Trial in the Family Court, with little or no resources available to her to defend the Application.
Often, in these situations, when it is a property settlement Trial, we are able to make applications to the Court for funding of our client’s legal costs. Any funding that is obtained for our client’s legal costs are deducted from their ultimate property settlement.
In parenting cases, Applications for funding of legal costs from the other party rarely happen. The reason is, that in most cases, there is a genuine dispute and parties typically have to fund their own legal costs in parenting disputes.
However, it occurred to us, due to previous comments by Judges and published articles that the power to award costs pursuant to s117 of the Family Law Act, was not just confined to property cases and could, in some rare cases, be used to meet upfront payments for costs for a party in a parenting dispute.
However, to date, there has never been a decision made directly on point at either a single Judge level or by the Full Court, authorising such an Application.
We were confident, in this Case that due to the conduct of the father, regularly breaching Orders (and the mother’s consequent hardship), that we did have an arguable case for funds to be paid by the father to the mother so that she could engage her own lawyers and have full and proper representation.
In what could only be described as a landmark decision, we were successful in the Application and the father was ordered to pay approximately the sum of $80,000.00 to Hartley Healy to enable the mother to funds her legal costs for Trial.
The Case highlighted the ability of our senior specialist family lawyers to keep an open mind and more importantly, to think outside the square and obtain a brilliant outcome for the client.
During the year, our Special Counsel, Beata Leszczuk also had a substantial victory in a matter which involved a very complex property case and had been hard fought for the past three years. In that matter, Beata obtained an ultimate Judgement awarding her client 55% of the property pool (in a pool of close to $10M, after a long marriage). The decision also provided for a Costs Order to be made against the third party intervenors.
In a very complex case and against very difficult and tough opposition, the victory was a testament to Beata’s attention to detail and detailed presentation of evidence.
Often, in complex property cases, it is the party who presents detailed relevant evidence who comes out successful. The Family Court takes evidence by way of Affidavit (and not orally) and as such the attention to detail and preparation is paramount in successful outcomes in complex property settlement matters.
Finally, the year is not complete without mention of a significant success by Joe “Pinkie” Healy in a same-sex parenting case, involving our client who sought to be recognised as a parent under the Family Law Act, despite opposition by the other parent.
Not only did Joe obtain a successful win at a first instance in a complex, lengthy and hard fought Trial, but subsequently then successfully defended an Appeal bought by the other parent and further obtained an Order for Costs.