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Am I or Aren’t I?

Am I or Aren’t I?

Am I or Aren’t I?

For all our faithful blog readers out there you have no doubt read our absolutely top notch blogs from my colleagues. In case you haven’t noticed we do things a bit different here at Butlers. We like to make the law easy and accessible to everyone, and it should be.

For all of our first time readers you will find that these blogs are informative and they give you guidance if you’re about to get into a relationship, or are in a relationship or if you’ve just got out of a relationship.

I thought I’d change things up a bit and share a personal experience that I had 2 years into practicing. Now before you feel the need to let out a groan, just give me the benefit of the doubt and have a read.

I’m often met with the response of “Oh wow, that must be so tough” or “I don’t know how you do it” when I tell people that I’m a Family Lawyer.

The truth is I love my job. I love working in this area of law. I was fortunate enough to be one of the few people who knew early on in my law degree that I wanted to go into Family Law.

Is it tough? It can be. The truth is though I’m able to separate the emotion from the law and the facts.

However, there is one matter which I was involved in when I was practicing in Queensland that had a huge impact on me, so much so that to this day it remains the only matter that I have ever worked on that made me cry. Once you finish reading this blog you’ll see why I couldn’t help but cry, and bar that, I’m Cancerian, it’s in my nature to cry.

Imagine this, a man who is 87 years old claimed to be in a de facto relationship with his partner, who was also 87 years old at the time, for a period of 16 years. He dreamed of being with her, together, forever. We were acting for him and he subsequently became the Applicant in the proceedings.

His “partner” on the other hand had completely different views on what she thought the nature of the relationship was. She did not believe they were in a de facto relationship. In fact she said that they were nothing more than just friends and that she acted as a ‘carer’ for him.

Proceedings were subsequently commenced in the Federal Magistrates Court, as it then was, for an urgent listing given our client’s age and serious health issues. We were denied.

Notwithstanding the Offers which had been made, the matter was unable to be resolved and the matter was listed to be heard in June 2010. Unfortunately due to an administrative error, the Final Hearing was delayed again to July 2010. The primary issues to be determined:-

  1. Did a de facto relationship exist? And if so,
  2. What is the parties’ respective property entitlements under section 79 of the Family Law Act

On the first day of the hearing our client got in the witness box and was under cross examination for just over 2 hours. He was cross examined extensively as to the nature of his relationship, a relationship which meant a great deal to him. He spoke fondly about attending the races with his partner, as he had a real affinity for the ponies.

Cross examination of our client finished just before 5pm. He did exceptionally well and you wouldn’t have known that he had a heart attack just 7 days earlier. As he was leaving the witness box he was complaining that he was feeling shortness of breath. His nephew from Canberra, who was present at the hearing, arranged for an ambulance to come to the Court. However our client did not seem bothered, he just sat in his wheelchair, patiently waiting, asking us how he did. Little did he know that would be the last time he would ever see us or the Judgment that said “he was a gentleman”.

A few hours later I was at home flicking through the channels when I received a call from his nephew who advised me that his uncle, our client, had died. And that was it. It was in that moment, right there, where I cried. Now I’m sure some of you are probably thinking “well you were upset that he died”. Yes, of course. But the real reason I was upset was because this man spent his last day on earth, his final hours, inside a witness box, trying to convince a Federal Magistrate, trying to convince the other party’s solicitors and counsel and perhaps even to a lesser extent trying to convince his own legal team that he was in a de facto relationship. Imagine that, his last day on this planet was trying to convince a room full of strangers who he didn’t know from Adam that he loved this woman and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her.

Now I don’t know about you, but there is no way, absolutely NO WAY, I would ever want that to be my last memory. Na uh.

Case closed? Not by a long shot.

At the risk of sounding like the old Batman series back in the 60’s, tune in to the same Butlers Website, same Butlers Blog next week to find out what happened…


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Friday, 07 May 2021

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