Battle of Financial Disparities: A Deep Dive into Laska & Garvey
Laska & Garvey (No 2)  FedCFamC1A 94 (16 June 2023)
The case, Laska & Garvey (No 2)  FedCFamC1A 94, involves an appeal from interlocutory orders made by a judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia. The appellant, Ms. Laska, had filed for an Application in a Proceeding seeking various orders including spouse maintenance and property settlement. The primary judge dismissed her application.
The parties in this case were engaged in property settlement proceedings. They had separated either in late 2019 or early 2020 and had six children, three of whom were adults. The five younger children were living with the appellant.
Their significant assets included a group of companies known as the B Group and a property in New Zealand valued at NZD $700,000. The B Group was under the control of the respondent and was assessed to have a value of between $8,109,000 and $10,109,000 as at 30 June 2020. However, it also owed unpaid tax amounting to $6,321,090 which significantly affected its current value.
The appellant sought an interim property settlement and spouse maintenance arguing about economic disparity between the parties. The primary judge dismissed her application based on various factors including the outdated valuation of the B Group and its significant tax debt.
The appellant appealed against this decision on various grounds including failure to disclose relevant financial information by the respondent and failure to consider her needs and those of their children. However, all these grounds were dismissed by Justice Aldridge who upheld the decision of the primary judge.
Issue: The issue in the case of Laska & Garvey (No 2)  FedCFamC1A 94 is whether the primary judge erred in refusing to deal with a property, ignoring a dollar for dollar order and dismissing an application for spouse maintenance. The appellant, Ms Laska, contended that her financial circumstances were very limited compared to the respondent, Mr Garvey, and that there was no extant order for spousal maintenance.
Rules: The relevant legislation involved in this case included Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989 (Cth) Pt VII, Div 7 and Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) ss 72, 75(2). The Federal Circuit and Family Court (Family Law) Rules 2021 (Cth) Sch 3 also played a part. The court also considered various precedents such as House v The King (1936) 55 CLR 499;  HCA 40 and Norbis v Norbis (1986) 161 CLR 513;  HCA 17 which set out the principles governing appeals from discretionary judgments.
Application: After careful consideration of the evidence presented by both parties, including their financial resources and needs, the court found no error on the part of the primary judge. The court noted that disparity in income alone is not a basis for either an interim property settlement or spousal maintenance. It was also highlighted that even though there may be more than one correct answer to the exercise of discretion, this does not mean that a different decision by another judge would demonstrate error.
Conclusion: Consequently, the appeal was dismissed because none of the grounds raised by Ms Laska demonstrated sufficient merits to justify leave. Moreover, she was ordered to pay the costs of Mr Garvey fixed at $16,898.87 at the conclusion of the property settlement proceedings between them.
Take Home Lesson: This case reaffirms the principle that an appeal from a discretionary judgment must demonstrate some error in the exercise of the discretion. Simply arguing that a different decision could have been made or that there is disparity in income is not sufficient to warrant an appeal. Additionally, it highlights the importance of full and proper disclosure in family law matters. The court will not make assumptions about a party's financial resources based on incomplete or unreliable evidence. Finally, it demonstrates that courts are reluctant to grant leave to appeal against interlocutory orders as they are matters of practice and procedure.
Details of Parties:
The Appellant: Litigant in person
Counsel for the Respondent: Mr Wiiliams KC
Solicitor for the Respondent: Barkus Doolan Winning