Enjoying 21 years together and raising three kids, Karl and Cassandra Stefanovic seemingly enjoyed one of the happiest celebrity marriages in Australia – culminating in Stefanovic’s Gold Logie speech acknowledging that his wife had the “best arse I have ever seen”. Sadly, the union of the popular Channel 9 host and his ex-journo wife has apparently come to end.
In addition to speculation about the reason for their split, there have also been unconfirmed rumours about the couple listing their Sydney “mansion” for sale. In today’s Bayside Family Law Solutions blog, we look at Karl and Cassandra’s potential separation and imagine what their respective legal positions might be if they resumed their relationship in the future.
Imagine that the Stefanovics do put up all their assets for sale. They amicably sort out the kids’ arrangements, Cassandra returns to their home state of Queensland, and the two go their separate ways. One little detail gets overlooked in the flurry of activity, however: they never actually get around to divorcing.
Fast forward five years: Karl has failed to win any further Logies, while Cassandra has returned to journalism and now enjoys a career which has gone from strength to strength. The lure of morning television and living in Sin City has started to wane for Karl, who decides he wants to reconcile with Cassie and return to the kids and to Queensland. Let’s imagine that the intervening 5 years have not been kind to Karl – and when he does return ‘home’, he does so empty-handed to a house that Cassandra had bought all on her own. One of several houses that Cassandra now owns. Because when we say she went from strength to strength over the past five years, it wasn’t all about journalism. Oh no! Cassandra has in fact become something of a property mogul. She owns ten properties, only one of which was purchased with monies from the settlement with Karl five years earlier.
Now let’s fast forward into the future for the Stefanovics, again. The kids have left home, and sadly Karl and Cassie (we feel we know her well enough by now to call her Cassie) decide that separation is ultimately best for them both. Karl moves back out of the ‘family home’- the one Cassandra and the kids were living in when they reconciled. His lawyers tell him he is entitled to 50% of their ‘joint assets’, and tell Karl that the ‘matrimonial pool’ of joint assets includes the ten properties Cassie purchased during their separated years.
Properties that Karl made no financial or other contribution towards. Remember – they never got divorced.
Are Karl’s lawyers correct – is he entitled to 50% of the ‘joint assets’? And should the ten properties be part of the pool of ‘joint assets’?
The short answer is, maybe.
This is the kind of test-case that makes lawyers rub their hands together with glee, as both sides enjoy a chance of winning if the case went to court.
If we were acting for Karl in this case, we would focus on points such as:
- Their relationship should be considered as a whole – from the very first time they got together, not just the last few years.
- Karl was once a huge success with a large income. He supported Cassandra for a substantial period of time.
- Whilst poor Karl had been a little down on his luck and lost the proceeds of their first property settlement, he shouldn’t be punished for that. Especially because the properties Cassandra now owns were in part purchased with seed capital from their earlier settlement.
- If it weren’t for Karl working hard and allowing Cassandra to stay at home for the first 21 years of their relationship, she wouldn’t have had time to spend learning how to become a property mogul – she owes her success at least in part to Karl.
On the other hand, as Cassandra’s advocate, our main arguments would be:
- Karl has made a total contribution of zero (financial or otherwise) towards the ten properties Cass has acquired since their first separation.
- Their finances have been separate since reconciliation.
- Cassandra has been supporting Karl since they reconciled (he hasn’t gone back to work), so he has already benefited from her success.
- Karl is still relatively young, enjoying skills and experience most journos would love to have. He’s got the capacity to earn the big dollars again – he just needs to get off his butt and return to work.
Either way, both parties would likely have completely opposing perspectives on their case, and no outcome at court can be guaranteed. In a recent similar case managed by Bayside Family Law Solutions, our client chose to compromise and reach an agreed settlement rather than pushing their argument all the way to court. We thought our client had a great case, and we readied ourselves to support them in court. Ultimately, our client chose to settle, preferring some control over the outcome. We, of course, supported their decision.
But what of Karl and Cassandra’s case? Perhaps the best thing for Cassie to do is to call Bayside Family Law Solutions. We’re here and ready to help.