Article

Once Upon a Time in Bayside

Somewhere in the beautiful suburbs of bayside…

The door slams and Jane tries hard not to scream in frustration.

It’s 10pm on a ‘school night’, and Ray has just gone out. Again. To a destination unknown.

Recent experience tells Jane this will mean more withdrawals from their bank account, most probably from around the Crown Casino complex, and that Ray won’t be stumbling through the door much before 4am. Which means when he gets up tomorrow morning for work at 6, his mood could be anywhere from euphorically high, to low and angry.

And Jane is scared. Terrified in fact, because as every day goes by, she is more and more convinced her husband of 10 years is regularly ‘doing’ some kind of drug. It’s wearing her down, and it’s starting to affect the kids as well. Jane doesn’t think she can take much more of this.

If Jane is right and Ray has become addicted to drugs, then he’s not alone.

The most recent stats from 2012 estimate that over 3 million Australians regularly take illicit drugs, with use of drugs like ice noticeably on the increase. Here at Bayside Family Law Solutions, we have observed how destructive drug addiction can be on relationships, and how often it is a significant factor in the breakdown of relationships.

Drug addicts will often lie about the fact they are using, or about the drug they’re taking and how regularly they indulge. Trust and communication becomes a huge issue between the parties. Drug use may also mean the addict starts hanging out with unsavoury types with links to crime. It’s not uncommon for someone like Jane to receive a knock on the door in the middle of the night and find a stranger there, demanding money to repay her partner’s debt.

Unfortunately, the effects of drug use on partners and families don’t stop when the relationship ends.

Let’s imagine Jane and Ray have split, and he is demanding to see the kids at his place. Jane is likely to be worried about what mood Ray will be in when he picks them up – will he be in the middle of one of his lows? Will it be safe for Ray to drive the kids around? What if he decides to throw a party while the kids are sleeping over – he won’t be able to stop himself from using and who knows what type of people will be in the house.

Jane might feel she can only agree to short, supervised visits. Or at the very least, insist on face to face handover of the kids so she can see for herself if Ray is drug affected or not.

Ray, on the other hand, is likely to be angry about Jane leaving him and then trying to tell him when and how he can see his kids. Whilst some couples are able to negotiate arrangements for the kids after separation, with communication and trust already at such an all-time low between Ray and Jane, it’s unlikely they will be able to resolve their differences amicably.

In our experience, this situation often culminates with the court having to decide on what is in the children’s best interests. The court will have to weigh up several factors, including trying to balance the benefit of the kids spending time with Ray and whilst making sure they are safe at all times.

As well as the children’s issues, there will also be financial issues that need to be sorted out between them, too.

Jane was already aware of a lot of unexplained withdrawals from ATMs in the months before their split. But post-settlement (when she takes a long hard look at their bank statements for the last few years) she might discover that Ray has been withdrawing huge chunks of their joint funds, and has even hocked some of their assets, presumably to keep funding his habit.

If his habit becomes too severe, Ray might not be able to hold down his job which means no more support for the kids.

The financial settlement is no easier for the court to resolve than the children’s issues. A court will consider many issues about Ray’s spending, including whether he has an illness or if he has been recklessly wasting assets.

Depending on how that pans out, the court might:-

  • Add a notional amount back into the asset pool (e.g. the actual assets Jane and Ray have is $800k equity in the house and a $20k car but the court will say the notional value of the assets is $950K not $820K and approach the case on the basis that Ray has already had the benefit of $130,000).
  • When looking at the contributions made by Jane and Ray over the journey, assess Jane’s contributions as being greater than Ray’s.
  • Take Ray’s spending into account in a more general way.

Whichever approach is taken by the court, the judge must determine an outcome that is just and equitable.

If you are a ‘Jane’ or a ‘Ray’ and you need legal advice, rest assured – at Bayside Family Law Solutions we are here to help. Whilst this difficult circumstance may make you feel isolated and alone – please know that these cases occur with regularity – even in Melbourne’s most prestigious communities.


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