It took more than a decade and cost $40 million, but Australia’s most expensive divorce has finally concluded. Picture: Thinkstock.
It took more than a decade and cost $40 million, but Australia’s most expensive divorce has finally concluded. Picture: Thinkstock.

$40 million, 14-year marathon divorce finally over

AFTER14 years, 15 law firms, 700 documents, $40 million in legal fees and "innumerable" court hearings, Australia's most expensive divorce has finally concluded.

In a judgment published online, the Family Court has drawn a line under a case one judge labelled "somewhat farcical" and a "cottage industry" for lawyers.

Justice Paul Cronin refused an application by a woman - deemed a vexatious litigant in related proceedings - to block finalisation of the often bitter dispute.

He rejected her pleas to re-open the case so she could retain control of the former family's trusts and companies, rather than accept a $2 million lump sum.

He also refused to re-hear her petition for "spousal maintenance" of $4098 per week, saying she had sufficient personal resources to maintain her "luxurious lifestyle".

Justice Cronin said the woman had repeatedly missed court hearings and filed documents well out of time, frustrating the court's ability to end the long and drawn-out saga.

"Years passed without any clear indication of what she was seeking, notwithstanding the parade of lawyers passing," he said.

"Along the way, the court record shows innumerable hearings and over 700 filed documents.

"The evidence of both parties shows the expense has been extraordinary but they have each also used an enormous amount of the court's time over that journey."

The couple, neither of whom can be identified under Commonwealth law, married in 1994 and separated in 2005.

In 2010, The Advertiser revealed the woman had sued one of her former law firms, claiming she had been billed $10.5 million for its services.

As the firm battled internally over the claim, she fought to restrict her ex-husband from seeing that case and, eventually, sought to broker a settlement.

By 2016, she and her ex-husband had spent a combined $40 million on their divorce, and she claimed her succession of counsel had left her with just $5 to fight the case.

An Adelaide judge labelled the case "a farce", saying it had "all the flavour of kicking a can down the road" while "creating a cottage industry" for the legal profession.

In his judgment, Justice Cronin said the wife still wanted $1573 per week for "necessary commitments" and $615 per week for "gifts, hairdressing, toiletries and cosmetics".

He said she still sought a further $1560 per week to spend on "clothing and shoes" and $350 per week for "entertainment and hobbies".

However, he agreed with the court's original ruling that such requests were "manifestly excessive and unjustified".

He also agreed her claims that her ex-husband would cease providing money for their child were baseless, noting the man had repeatedly honoured his familial commitments.