It’s a lawyer’s dream – a client who won’t take no for an answer.
For 14 long years an Australian woman went to the ends of the earth to try to prove her husband was hiding assets from her, in our nation’s longest-running and most expensive divorce.
Ultimately, the wealthy ex-wife burned through an eyewatering $40 million in legal fees and 16 law firms over a staggering 5000 days for legal wrangling.
“How much of your life do you want to dedicate to fighting, arguing, going to court?” Dr Bella Ellwood-Clayton told A Current Affair as she dissected the failed relationship.
“When someone feels abandoned by their partner they might feel hurt and might want to be vindictive and when it comes to money, things can get very messy.”
For legal reasons, we can’t identify the warring couple but we can reveal the husband is a handy card player who belongs to a mysterious global betting syndicate.
His wife claimed that before their marriage fell apart, he told the court in an affidavit that the couple’s share in the syndicate was worth $150 million.
Her relentless pursuit to prove the money existed only served to line lawyers’ back pockets who took on her case.
LJ Subeska from Sydney’s Astoria Law firm did not act for the wife but says she’s astonished her peers did not try advise their client to end the litigation sooner.
“The judge labelled her (the wife) as a vexatious client and at some stage, some lawyer should have said let’s pull up here and give some proper advice as to the grounds of success,” Ms Subeska told A Current Affair.
The wife wanted $278,000 a month in spousal payments.
The court decided $26,000 a month was enough to support her luxurious lifestyle, which included $1560 a week for clothing and shoes, $615 for gifts, hairdressing, toiletries and cosmetics, and another $1573 for other necessary commitments.
She had already received $12 million in partial property settlements over the course of the protracted litigation.
One judge ordered the woman to hand back interests in family companies and trusts, and relinquish caveats held over several properties around the world.
In exchange, she would receive more than $2 million in cash, five properties worth more than $8 million, and another $1 million in company shares.
She appealed that deal three times.
No courts found the husband had hidden any assets.
And when the dust settled, the woman ended up with about $15 million in cash and assets.